SearchArchives for March 2011
29 March, 2011
An audit of information held electronically by APS Agencies has found gaps in controls, security, access and management.
finds security gaps
In his report The Protection and Security of Electronic Information Held by Australian Government Agencies, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said that while most Agencies were generally operating in accordance with Government protective security requirements, there was scope for improvement in a number of key areas.
“Agency CEOs are responsible for ensuring that protective security is a part of their Agency’s culture,” Mr McPhee said.
“Therefore, agencies should build protective security into their business processes and organisation’s values.”
He said that of the four agencies audited - the Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM), ComSuper, Medicare Australia and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - all had introduced controls to safeguard information but, “the audit did identify scope for the audited agencies to enhance their security measures.”
Mr McPhee said that among these were a need to keep information security policies and procedures complete and up-to-date; a need to check third-party software applications regularly for patches and apply them; and to ban the use of public web-based email services such as hotmail and gmail.
“Webmail accounts were accessible in one of the audited agencies, and logs showed that some staff were using these accounts on a regular basis,” the Auditor-General said.
“Emails using public web-based email services should be blocked on agency ICT systems, as these can provide an easily accessible point of entry for an external attack and subject the agency to the potential for intended or unintended information disclosure.”
He also found password protection to be inadequate in some instances and called for tougher requirements to be introduced.
“A password test applied by the ANAO had mixed results, showing weaknesses in passwords for administrator and service accounts in several Agencies,” he said.
“Administrator accounts and service accounts, which allow a high level of access across ICT systems, should use suitably complex password configurations to reduce the potential for inappropriate access.”
The Auditor-General made four recommendations which he encouraged all Agencies to consider implementing in light of their own circumstances.
Three of the audited Agencies agreed with all the recommendations and the AOFM with one.
The 92-page report was produced by an audit team of Keith Allen, Jillian Blow, Bronwen Jaggers, Wayne Jones, Connal McInnes, Rachel Palmer and Michael White and can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
New Health Commission
A new Commission to promote safe, high quality health care is to be established.
to be good medicine
Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, announced the move saying legislation had been passed by parliament to set up the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
“Today is a key step forward in providing better health and better hospitals for all Australians,” Ms Roxon said.
“The establishment of the Commission as a permanent, independent body from 1 July 2011, dedicated to monitoring safety and quality in health care, is critical to the Government’s health reforms which are driving greater transparency and accountability of health services to the Australian public.”
She said the Opposition failed to support this bill when the Commission on Quality and Safety was established under his tenure as Health Minister.
Ms Roxon said the Commission would play a key part in making improvements in Australians’ quality of health by: developing national standards for clinical safety and quality
developing a national system for health service accreditation, and improving patient safety by reducing harm caused by preventable errors.
She said it would also look at improvement for: more effective management of healthcare resources arising from unnecessary or ineffective treatment; and giving independent and informed advice to all healthcare providers and healthcare services consumers.
Minister Roxon said the Commission would take a leading role in ensuring that all Australians had a healthcare system that provided safe, high-quality health care services.
29 March, 2011
Civilian staff win
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, has paid tribute to 28 staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and AusAID who have served in Afghanistan.
In a ceremony at DFAT headquarters in Canberra, Mr Rudd presented plaques to Australian civilian staff, thanking them for their dedication and service in tough and often dangerous conditions.
“On my many visits to Afghanistan, I have seen the professionalism, good humour and grit of all Australian personnel working there, both military and civilian,” Mr Rudd said.
“There are few places in the world that offer Australian Government personnel an assignment as important, demanding or rewarding as service in Afghanistan.”
He said the conditions the staff faced were challenging and entailed risks.
“The fact that we are making real progress on the ground lays clear testimony to the outstanding quality of their work as well as their personal courage and determination,” Mr Rudd said.
He said Australia had worked with other international donors and development partners to support the building of more than 800 schools across Afghanistan, and the training of more than 45,000 teachers.
“School enrolments have increased from a mere one million in 2001 under Taliban rule to more than six million today and, of those, more than two million are girls,” Mr Rudd said.
“Basic healthcare is now available to 85 per cent of the population, up from just 10 per cent under the Taliban regime.”
Mr Rudd also launched a photographic exhibition, Through Australian Eyes, which recognised the significant contribution of Australian civilians working in Afghanistan.
He said the exhibition emphasised the important role development assistance and diplomacy played in the rebuilding of Afghanistan and the security gains being made in Afghanistan.
The exhibition is on public display at DFAT in the atrium of the R G Casey building in Canberra’s Barton.
29 March, 2011
A national tax forum is to be held in Canberra in October to discuss ways to build on the Government’s tax reform agenda.
has tax appeal
Announced by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the two-day forum will be attended by 150 representatives of community groups, businesses, unions and governments, as well as academics and tax practitioners.
Mr Swan said the invitations will be issued in the coming months to the Forum, to be held at Parliament House on 4 and 5 October, and he would be releasing a discussion paper in the middle of the year to help foster the debate.
The Treasurer said the Government was implementing a substantial tax reform agenda to strengthen and broaden the economy, and maximise the opportunities of the mining boom by cutting small business taxes, boosting super and building more regional infrastructure.
He said the forum would follow on from the release of Australia’s Future Tax System (AFTS) Review last year, and it would focus on the broad sweep of topics in the Review, with sessions to discuss personal tax, transfer payments, business tax, state taxes, environmental and social taxes, and system governance.
“We look forward to engaging with the community and hearing what the representatives of millions of Australians have to say about building on our ambitious tax reform agenda.” Mr Swan said.
“We will also explore ways for participants and the general public to make submissions and comments, which can be uploaded onto a dedicated website, prior to the Tax Forum.”
He said the Tax Forum would assist the Government in prioritising its agenda for further tax reform, and would help identify the reforms that had broad agreement across the community.
Mr Swan said the Forum would be followed by a debate in Parliament to give all MPs and Senators the chance to have their say on these significant issues for Australia’s future prosperity.
Enquiries in relation to the Tax Forum can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
29 March, 2011
A national framework to ensure students are safe at school has been updated and revised to include measures to deal with bullying.
hits back at bullies
Minister for Education, Peter Garrett said the revised National Safe Schools Framework was supported by all Ministers for Education across Australia and was the only national anti-bullying resource of its kind in the world.
“This Framework will assist schools and school communities to develop a comprehensive response to bullying that makes everyone in the school understand proactive and practical approaches to effective student safety policies,” Mr Garrett said.
He said since the National Safe Schools Framework was first made available in Australian schools in 2003, the use of new technologies such as mobile phones and computers had created new avenues for bullying, and therefore assistance to schools needed to adapt with the times.
“A recent study found one in five children experienced some form of this new type of bullying,” Mr Garrett said.
“This is why the revised Framework takes into account students’ safety and wellbeing in virtual environments.”
He said states and territories needed to take united action on bullying and violence in schools, and he encouraged all Australian schools to recognise that student wellbeing and safety were essential for academic development and to use the Framework to form a plan to combat bullying in the long term.
“As part of the action being taken this week to counter bullying, an online campaign called Take a Stand Together has also started, asking bystanders to stop bullying when they see it,” Mr Garrett said.
“The website, www.takeastandtogether.gov.au offers interactive activities for students and resources for teachers and parents.”
For more information on the revised Framework and supporting resources visit this PS News link.
For more information on the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence visit this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
A review of the national employment service arrangements has found the current arrangements to be a major improvement on previous programs.
doing a good job
Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis said more than 150 stakeholders had made submissions to the review.
She thanked the contributors for their feedback and suggestions to improve Job Services Australia (JSA) and Disability Employment Services (DES) arrangements from 1 July 2012.
“Overwhelmingly, the feedback indicated that the current arrangements are a considerable improvement over the previous programs,” Ms Ellis.
“Feedback also confirms that the overall JSA and DES program models are working well and achieving good results for job seekers.”
She said they had received submissions from employment service providers, training organisations, job seekers and consumer organisations, employer associations and community and social policy groups.
“I’m pleased to see such a strong response from so many stakeholders. Their responses will be of great assistance to the Government as we consider how we can continue to improve our employment services,” Ms Ellis said.
She the written submissions were received as part of a public consultation process that also involved a range of discussions with academic, union, consumer groups, employer and employment services sector representatives.
Ms Ellis said that employment services played a vital role in lifting Australia’s labour force participation, productivity and social inclusion.
“There is always room for improvement however, particularly for people who are long-term unemployed or facing multiple disadvantage like homelessness or drug and alcohol abuse,” Ms Ellis said.
She said in the first 18 months of operation, JSA providers secured more than 615,000 job placements for unemployed people.
Ms Ellis said the feedback from these consultations would help the Government further build on this performance.
The Australian Government expected to release details of the future arrangements for JSA and DES services later this year.
For further information on current DES and JSA programs visit this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
A report on enterprise bargaining under the Fair Work Act 2009 reveals the current workplace relations system is working well according to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans.
right on the money
Senator Evans said the Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining report for the September 2010 quarter showed the number of current enterprise agreements had grown to 24,745 covering more than 2.3 million Australian employees.
He said the figures showed that agreement making under the modern workplace relations system was working well.
“This is the largest ever number of enterprise agreements at any one time, which clearly reflects that the federal workplace relations system of agreement making is meeting its objective to balance the needs of employees and employers without taking away basic rights and guaranteed minimum standards,” Senator Evans said.
He said the report also showed that there was a record 24,119 current agreements in the private sector covering almost 1.8 million private sector employees, with the Construction, Manufacturing and Retail industries accounting for more than half of the current agreements.
Senator Evans said the September quarter delivered an average annual wage increase of 4.2 per cent to Australian employees under new agreements. This was a slight increase from 4.0 per cent in the June 2010 quarter. In the public sector there was an increase of 4.7 per cent and 4.1 per cent in the private sector.
He said average wage increases across all industries current agreements had been within the range of 4.0 per cent to 4.2 per cent for more than three years.
“Wages growth has remained contained, reflecting the gradual strengthening of the Australian economy following the Global Financial Crisis,” Senator Evans said.
“What we are seeing now is wage increases simply returning to where they were prior to the GFC.”
He said it was important to note the September quarter wages growth for the Public Sector was contained within the normal range which, over the past three years has varied between 3.6 per cent and 4.8 per cent.
The report is available at this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
Newly appointed graduates to the Australian Public Service have been welcomed by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, at a special gathering in Canberra.
with degree of advice
Offering the graduates three tips for a successful career in the APS, Mr Moran urged them to move between Departments, learn from their supervisors and maintain a strong sense of ethics.
Mr Moran said public service was a vocation and the graduates, whom he said were among the cleverest young people in the country, should be proud to be selected by their Departments.
“Today I want to give you three things to think about as you begin your career in the public sector: seek diverse experience, follow good people, and maintain a strong ethical sense,” Mr Moran said.
“Things to think about as you begin your career.”
“Once you have gained a solid foundation in your current department, I encourage you to explore the multitude of opportunities for broader professional experiences that the public service offers you,” Mr Moran said.
He said this could include diverse experience within government, outside government and outside Canberra.
He said the different experiences would help bring valuable perspective to their work as a Public Servant.
Mr Moran also advised the graduates to follow good people.
“Always think about who you will work for, because those people will teach you more than anyone else,” he said.
He said the graduate would to learn something different from their supervisors and colleagues, and should think about how they might do things if they are in positions of authority one day.
Mr Moran said the graduates also needed to maintain a strong ethical sense and urged them to hold onto the enthusiasm they felt at the beginning of their careers.
“You must be responsive to government, apolitical, frank and honest in your advice, achieve results and be accountable – all at the same time,” he said.
“Achieving this will require intelligence, good judgment, commonsense and, on occasion, courage.”
Mr Moran’s address can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
A series of reports on workplace hazards such as work-related pain and fatigue, exposure to chemicals and wet working conditions has been released by Safe Work Australia.
in safe hands
Based on the findings of National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Survey, the reports identify the demographic and employment characteristics of the workers affected by the hazards and the measures taken to eliminate, reduce or control the danger.
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said biomechanical demands, such as repetitive hand or arm movements, lifting heavy loads or working in awkward postures contribute to the development or worsening of inflammatory or degenerative musculoskeletal disorders which are one of the leading causes of morbidity and disability in Australia and worldwide.
He said findings of the study included exposure to biomechanical demand was very common in Australian workplaces, with more than 99 per cent of workers reporting exposure to at least one of the nine biomechanical demands surveyed.
Mr Phillips said it also showed 21 per cent of workers reported exposure to all nine biomechanical demands; and young workers, male workers, night workers and lower skilled workers were most likely to report exposure to biomechanical demands and had the highest overall biomechanical demand exposure scores.
Mr Phillips said work-related musculoskeletal disorders were one of the eight priority occupational diseases for Australia and accounted for the largest proportion of occupational disease workers’ compensation claims in Australia.
He said furthermore the report into the exposure to biological hazards, found: 19 per cent of workers reported they worked in places where there were biological materials; 63 per cent of workers who reported exposure to biological hazards were female; and exposure to biological hazards was concentrated in the Health and community services and Agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.
Mr Phillips said the survey also looked into wet work exposure, with a report finding: 9.8 per cent of workers reported they washed their hands more than 20 times per day and 4.5 per cent reported their hands were immersed in liquids more than two hours per day, which are both indicators of high exposure to wet work.
Mr Phillips said that this study outlined the importance of time restriction as a control measure for wet work and ultimately occupational skin disease.
The National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Reports can be found at this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
Tax Office accounts
A report into the Australian Taxation Office’s adoption of recommendations for improvement made by the Inspector-General Taxation has been released by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill shorten.
The report, Follow up review into the Australian Taxation Office’s implementation of agreed recommendations included in the six reports prepared by the Inspector-General of Taxation between June 2006 and October 2008, analysed whether the Tax Office had implemented (either in part or in whole) 41 of the 45 recommendations made in the six Inspector-General reports.
In this latest report, the Inspector-General, Ali Noroozi, acknowledged the Tax Office had implemented or made significant progress towards implementing 38 of the 41 agreed recommendations.
Mr Noroozi noted the Tax Office’s progress represents a positive outcome, commenting it had been responsive to the earlier reviews, as shown by the improvements made in its administrative practices and approaches.
He said this report was the second of two reviews examining the Tax Office’s implementation of the agreed recommendations from all Inspector-General reports provided to Government up until October 2008.
In his report, Mr Norozzi said despite the ATO’s progress, concerns remained in relation to those recommendations or aspects thereof upon which agreement was not reached and/or were not implemented.
He said, in particular, the ATO’s comments regarding the IGT’s recommendation to ensure that ATO guidance which was of a significant nature, and which affected a large segment of the taxpayer population be in a binding form.
Overall, he said a welcome aspect of this review had been the general willingness of the ATO to work with the IGT to make changes to some of its implementation work in order to demonstrate an implemented or partly implemented status.
The ATO said this follow up review has been of benefit by providing useful indicators on where it needed to focus for those areas requiring further improvement.
The full report, which also contains the Tax Office’s response, is available at this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
The Australian Crime Commission is to improve its internal procedures relating to long-term covert operations following an investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
to observe the law
The Ombudsman found the Commission had “bypassed” the law.
Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman, Alison Larkins said under the Crimes Act 1914, the maximum duration of an authority to conduct a controlled operation was three months, unless extended by a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a further three months.
“Rather than seek extensions to existing controlled operations certificates, the ACC has routinely issued new certificates every three months for the same operations,’ Ms Larkins said.
“Effectively, this has removed the avenue of external scrutiny of these operations.”
Ms Larkins agreed with the ACC that its regular processes of internal reapplication demonstrated good internal governance, but said that this was not a substitute for external scrutiny.
“The Commonwealth Parliament’s clear intention in passing the legislation is that the AAT provide external scrutiny of ongoing controlled operations,” she said.
The acting Ombudsman welcomed the ACC’s commitment to implementing an internal procedure that would require an applicant to document significant changes to controlled operations to justify the granting of a new authority.
She noted that all processes would be closely monitored in future inspections.
Ms Larkins said that the ACC was generally diligent and had a good compliance record, and she looked forward to further advice from the ACC on its progress in ensuring external oversight of all ongoing controlled operations, in accordance with legislative requirements.
She said an authority to conduct a controlled operation protects - within limits - law enforcement officers from legal action if they committed offences while under cover to gather evidence of criminal activity.
Controlled operations were conducted in Australia under authorities issued under Part IAB of the Crimes Act.
The law was amended in February 2010 to allow a maximum of 24 months for a ‘controlled op’, but the AAT must still approve extensions every three months.
Ms Larkins said the Commonwealth Ombudsman was required, at least once every 12 months, to inspect records and review the administrative processes of law enforcement agencies that conduct controlled operations.
29 March, 2011
National VET scheme
A national system for regulating the vocational education and training sector (VET) has been established under a new law passed by the Australian Parliament.
on trainer wheels
The National VET Regulator has been set up to regulate the sector in all States and Territories except Victoria and Western Australia. It will begin by regulating trainers in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
According to the Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills, Senator Chris Evans, the move represents a new era for vocational education and training and will benefit more than 1.2 million students and thousands of Australian businesses.
“The new National VET Regulator will build on the current VET regulatory system to increase confidence in the quality and consistency of graduates across states and territories,” Senator Evans said.
“The new regulator will use a risk-based approach, allowing it to focus closely on poor performers while reducing the regulatory burden for strong, proven providers.”
He said the reforms had received considerable support for the introduction of the VET regulator from stakeholders across the board, including training providers, employers, industry skills councils and unions.
“The legislation establishes a strengthened regulatory framework with a range of escalating penalties to ensure the new regulator can deal with underperforming training providers,” Senator Evans said.
He said the Government had committed $55 million over four years to create the new regulator, as part of the Skills for Sustainable Growth package announced in last year’s Federal Budget.
Further information on passing of the three Bills that establish the new regulator - the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Bill 2010 ; the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, and the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2010 is available at this PS News link.
29 March, 2011
New laws buy into
New laws to control hazardous materials in consumer products such as televisions and computers have been introduced into Parliament
According to the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell, the changes would help manage the environmental, health and safety impacts of the products which were common in almost every Australian home.
“Product stewardship is about everyone involved in the production, supply and use of products, sharing responsibility for the environmental impacts throughout a product’s life – from production through to disposal,” Senator Farrell said.
“Our entire community benefits when we reduce hazards from products and recover valuable resources from used products and materials that might otherwise be sent to landfill.”
He said this legislation provided for a flexible and practical approach to product stewardship by recognising that each product, material and industry was unique.
Senator Farrell said televisions and computers would be the first products to be covered under the legislation.
He said the planned National Television and Computer Product Stewardship Scheme aimed to increase the recycling rate for TVs and computers to 80 per cent by 2020-21.
“The proposed scheme will require importers and manufacturers of TVs, computers and computer peripherals to fund and implement national collection and recycling of these products,” Senator Farrell said.
“Recyclable materials that can be recovered from TVs and computers include glass and plastics, iron, steel, aluminium and copper, and precious metals such as gold, platinum and silver.”
He said collection services would be progressively rolled out Australia-wide over five years by the television and computer industry, which supported the scheme.
Senator Farrell said the broader Product Stewardship Bill had been developed following extensive stakeholder and community consultation.
“The framework legislation will allow a broad range of products to be regulated over time and to tailor schemes to suit changing international, social, environmental and economic conditions,” he said.
29 March, 2011
A Victorian Government program for reintroducing cattle grazing to the State’s Alpine National Park to reduce the risk of bushfire has run foul of Federal environment laws.
in cattle dispute
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke has called on the State to submit its plan to a “full and public assessment” or be forced to by Ministerial intervention.
Mr Burke said after considering advice from his department, he had determined cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park satisfied the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act requirement that it “may be” a controlled action.
He said the Victorian Government had until April 8 to refer its current cattle grazing actions for Commonwealth decision or he would force a referral.
Mr Burke said under the EPBC Act, a referral by the Victorian Government following this request or a forced referral by the Minister meant cattle would need to be removed from the Alpine National Park until a decision was made by the Minister.
“The Victorian Government was wrong to reintroduce cattle to the Alpine National Park and I have now determined that it needs to be fully scrutinised under national environmental law,” Mr Burke said.
“The referral will allow me to determine whether the impacts of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park have a significant impact on matters protected under national environmental law.”
He said cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park was setting a dangerous precedent for the management of national parks across Australia.
Mr Burke said when the Victorian Government reintroduced cattle to the Alpine National Park, it did not refer the action for consideration under national environmental law.
Since that time, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) has been meeting with the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and requesting the information on which the decision to not refer the action was based.
29 March, 2011
New drugs policy
New laws allowing Australian Courts to grant licences to pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and export patented medicines to overseas countries experiencing a health crisis have been proposed by the Ministers for Trade and Innovation.
wins high praise
Senator Kim Carr said the United Nations estimated that nearly two billion people did not have access to essential medicines, and that lives would be saved through nations working together.
He said in 2008, an estimated 285 million people were infected with malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, causing 4.2 million deaths, and many of the countries that were suffering such epidemics were developing or least-developed countries with limited resources and manufacturing capabilities.
“The new system will enable a country that is experiencing a serious epidemic to ensure that its own population is supplied with vital treatments,” Senator Carr said.
“The Government continues to support and encourage innovation, investment and international competitiveness by ensuring that patent owners will receive adequate compensation for any licences issued.”
He said measures would also be taken to help ensure that pharmaceuticals exported under the system reached the people that needed them and were not diverted to other markets.
Minister for Trade, Dr Craig Emerson said pandemics and other serious health issues remained a terrible problem in many of the world’s poorest countries.
“Anything Australia reasonably can do to alleviate the suffering in these countries should be done and we are delighted to be able to help through this initiative,” Dr Emerson said.
Senator Carr said the new system implemented an international agreement on public health in the World Trade Organization, amending the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Protocol).
He said developing countries and other interested organisations would now be able to apply to the Federal Court for a licence to manufacture and export patented pharmaceuticals from Australia to countries in need.
The Government is aiming to have the new system in place by the end of 2011.
29 March, 2011
A new pipeline to deliver water to the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra has been announced by the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell and ACT labor Senator Kate Lundy.
in the pipeline
Senator Lundy said the $2.9 million pipeline will draw water for the Gardens from Lake Burley Griffin, saving up to 170 million litres of Canberra’s drinking water each year.
She said the two-year project secured a long-term water supply for the Gardens’ collection of plants, fulfilling the Government’s 2007 commitment to use Lake Burley Griffin as a sustainable source of water for the Gardens.
Senator Lundy said when the project was launched in December 2009, Canberra was experiencing drought and water restrictions were in place.
She said water storage levels in Canberra were now at 100 per cent capacity, for the first time since 1996, but Australia’s climatic cycle meant drought would eventually return and this project would secure water for the Gardens’ living collection over the long term.
Senator Lundy said the new water system would help ensure the world-class horticultural team at the Gardens would be able to maintain their vibrant array of native plants for generations of Australians to enjoy.
“The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a much loved Canberra institution and education resource and continues to be a crucial part of Australia’s conservation efforts,” Senator Lundy said.
“I am proud that our Gardens are leading the field in low water use and sustainable horticultural practices. Other water efficiency measures introduced in the Gardens include computerised automatic irrigation systems.”
This project has been jointly funded from the National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns program, a key component the Government’s long-term Water for the Future initiative, and the Director of National Parks capital works program.
29 March, 2011
Division celebrates weather
The Australian Antarctic Division celebrated World Meteorological Day on 23 March, commemorating the creation of the WMO Convention in 1950.
Over the past 35 years the WMO has worked to raise awareness of human impacts on natural climate variability and change.
This year’s theme was ‘Climate for you’, and focused on the organisations Global Climate Observing System which brought together the work of many observation networks for land, air and sea.
The Australian Antarctic Division contributes to this system through the WMO co-sponsored this PS News link.
Transport security crackdown
Legislation to boost security at ports, airports and cargo storage facilities has been introduced to Parliament.
Customs Amendment (Export Controls and Other Measures) Bill 2011 aims to strengthen controls over international export cargo to ensure goods are not moved or interfered with without Customs and Border Protection permission.
The Bill will allow Customs to: give directions relating to goods in the export environment; seek additional information about goods being exported; and impose new conditions on depot and warehouse licences at any time.
Grange helps 100
One hundred charities will benefit from the Governor-General’s wine giveaway.
Selected charitable organisations in every state and territory will receive a bottle of vintage Penfolds Grange Hermitage wine from Government House to assist them to raise funds.
Each bottle will be signed by the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, with the aim of increasing their value for fund-raising purposes.
The selected bottles of Grange Hermitage include every vintage between 1985 and 1990, and the 1992 vintage.
More than 300 organisations submitting applications for the signed bottles, and those chosen to receive the bottles were selected following a ‘blind draw’.
A list of the organisations can be found at this PS News link.
Pilots take off with scholarships
Four pilots-to-be have been awarded Airservices Learn to Fly Scholarships in conjunction with the Royal Federation of Aero Clubs of Australia.
The scholarships are part of a four-year sponsorship agreement and each winner receives $7,700 to subsidise the cost of obtaining a Private or Commercial Pilot’s Licence.
Airservices spokesman Rob Walker said the scholarships offered a terrific opportunity to showcase the industry and supported the sustainability of the general aviation community.
Recipients of 2011 Airservices Learn to Fly Scholarships were: Matthew Di Paola from Victoria; Grant Timms from Queensland; Andrew Tull from New South Wales; and Steve Hicks from Western Australia.
Telecommunications provider TransACT has been appointed to the Australian Government Information Management Office’s (AGIMO) whole-of-government telecommunications services panel.
The Canberra-based company joins Telstra, Optus and Teledesign on the panel providing mobile phone services and equipment.
22 March, 2011
Medicare homes in on
Medicare is now offering an online claims service for patients to be reimbursed for doctors’ fees electronically.
claims from home
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said the online service provided greater convenience to millions of Medicare customers and followed a trend away from manual claiming, where customers go into a Medicare office and claim a cash benefit.
“Medicare customers can now claim their benefits for some medical visits from the convenience of their own home,” Ms Plibersek said.
“By first signing up to Medicare’s Online Services, and then entering the required details, customers will receive direct payments into their bank account.”
Ms Plibersek said the customer was required to select the person on the card who received the service, entering the doctor’s provider number, select the Medicare item number for the service, the date of service and the charge of the service – all printed on the doctor’s account.
She said to guard against fraud, the maximum claiming amount was $250 per day or $550 per 30 days.
“For many Australians, lodging their Medicare claim at the practice will continue to be the most convenient option,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Claiming online is a great alternative for people who are unable to lodge their claim at the doctor’s or visit a Medicare office.”
She said there were a number of ways to claim Medicare benefits, including at Medicare offices, at the medical practice itself where the claim was lodged and the customer either receives a cheque or has money transferred to their account, and Easyclaim, where customers swipe their banking card at a doctor’s surgery and received the money immediately.
Ms Plibersek said customers could also use Medicare’s Online Services for other purposes such as requesting a replacement Medicare card, viewing their Medicare Safety Net balance and downloading immunisations history statements.
Customers can sign up for Online Services by visiting this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
New health campaign
The Department of Health and Ageing has launched a ‘Swap it don’t stop it’ campaign encouraging Australians to make healthier lifestyle choices and reduce the risk of illness and disease.
to be lifestyle choice
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the campaign is based around Eric, an animated blue balloon character, who would urge Australians to make some simple lifestyle changes to become healthier, such as swapping big for small (portion control); often for sometimes (occasional treats); fried for fresh (nutritional quality); sitting for moving (physical activity); and watching for playing (physical activity).
“This campaign has a practical focus - following the awareness raised by the Measure Up Campaign - it encourages people to make practical choices in their everyday lives to improve their health,” Ms Roxon said.
“Losing weight doesn’t have to be hard - those little decisions made in the supermarket aisles, in the kitchen or when playing with the kids, can make a real difference.”
She said while the campaign urged all Australians to become “swappers”, it was particularly directed at 25- to 50-year-old men and women with children.
“Some practical examples that the campaign encourages include swapping the escalators for the stairs or swapping white bread for wholegrain,” Ms Roxon said.
“The cost of obesity is not only a personal one but also a huge drain on the nation’s economy.”
She said in 2008, obesity cost Australia $58.2 billion, and it was also the cause of almost one-quarter of type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis, about one-fifth of cardiovascular disease and colorectal, breast, uterine and kidney cancer.
“‘Swap it don’t stop it’ is part of a concerted, comprehensive approach by this Government to provide unprecedented support to keep people healthy and out of hospital,” Ms Roxon said.
“This will improve the lives of Australians and reduce the pressure on our health and hospital system.”
Further information on the campaign can be found at this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
New procedures for handling complaints against Judges and Magistrates in the Federal system have been announced by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
get day in court
Mr McClelland said the reforms – which were broadly based on the NSW Judicial Commission - would include a mechanism for judicial complaints handling to assist the Chief Justices of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate, to manage complaints that were referred to them.
“A key feature of the new process is the ability for heads of jurisdiction to establish a Conduct Committee to investigate a complaint and provide a report on the issue,” Mr McClelland said.
“The reforms have been developed in close consultation with the federal courts and with the support of the Chief Justices of the Federal Court and the Family Court, and the Chief Federal Magistrate.”
He said the new mechanism for judicial complaints handling would apply to the federal courts, with the exception of the High Court.
“Australia is well served by its judiciary, which is known for its excellence and its fairness,” Mr McClelland said.
“Judicial independence and impartiality are vital to the smooth administration of justice,” he said.
“A transparent, impartial and accountable system of judicial complaints handling will strengthen public confidence in the federal judiciary.”
Mr McClelland said the Government would also re-introduce the Parliamentary (Judicial Misbehaviour or Incapacity) Commission Bill into the parliament.
“Parliamentary consideration of removal of a judge from office will only be triggered in the rarest of circumstances,” Mr McClelland said.
“However, it is important that a clear framework is in place if such an extraordinary circumstance were to arise.”
He said the Government would continue to work with the courts to finalise the detail of the model for judicial complaints handling, including proposing legislative amendments to support the new complaints mechanism.
22 March, 2011
Planned reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency will cut costs for business, according to the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
to save money
Ms Ellis said the Agency was established in its current form in 1999 and had previously required all businesses of more than 100 employees to report on policies and programs that ensured women were able to participate in the workforce equally with men.
She said under these new reforms businesses would no longer have to provide lengthy and detailed reports to the Agency but rather provide raw data about the number of women and men they employed and at what level.
Ms Ellis said reporting costs to businesses that were already required to report to the Agency were estimated to decrease over time from $1,200 to $450 annually.
She said that one of the primary aims of the reforms was to streamline the reporting process for business and cut through red tape.
“We are making a multimillion dollar investment in the Agency's IT capacity - this is so reporting can be done online, which is a reform business has been asking for,” Ms Ellis said.
She said the Australian Government would continue to consult with business about the relative benefits and burdens of what indicators needed to be reported on.
The Minister said the implementation period for these reforms involved considerable lead time so that businesses had time to adjust to the new reporting requirements.
Ms Ellis said the Australian Government was also increasing funding to the Agency so that it had the resources it needed to support businesses to improve gender equity.
She said businesses would be able to request assistance from the Agency to implement gender equity programs and improve the number of women represented in senior ranks.
For more information about the reforms visit: this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
An Ombudsman’s report into Centrelink’s review processes has found “systemic weaknesses” including lack of transparency, deficiencies in administration and inadequate communication of review options to clients.
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher said the shortcomings often led to delays and inaction, with the review model contributing to administrative drift and breakdown.
Mr Asher said that despite around 207,000 requests being lodged for reviews in 2009/10 – of which almost half led to a new decision – many people would be surprised to learn they had options when seeking the review.
“Although some improvements have been made by Centrelink, we identified several deficiencies in administration which delay reviews and in some cases result in a failure to act on a request,” Mr Asher said.
He said while approximately 47 in 100 reviews resulted in a changed decision, this didn’t necessarily mean that the original decision was wrong, however it did reinforce the need for timely collection of information to enable a quality decision in the first instance.
Mr Asher said his report reinforced the importance for Centrelink customers to be told of the different types of reviews available and options open to them – in particular the implications of the type of review and whether further avenues of redress could be accessed.
He said the report also highlighted the phenomenon of “appeal fatigue” where customers give up pursuing their right to a review after long delays have extinguished their resolve.
Mr Asher said the report highlighted the need for Centrelink to identify and rectify causes of delay in the review model.
The Ombudsman said Centrelink had agreed to implement all recommendations, which go to the issues of: improving access to appropriate review options; timeliness of reviews; improving original decisions; limiting the negative consequences of incorrect decisions pending review outcomes; and achieving better alignment of legislative, policy and procedures.
The Ombudsman’s report is available from this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
Governance paper sets
The Institute of Public Administration Australia has produced a new policy paper addressing some of the fundamental questions about issues and challenges facing governments around Australia and proposing a number of principles and recommendations to guide their responses.
course for the future
Prepared by the IPAA's Submissions Standing Committee under the leadership of
Martin Stewart-Weeks, the paper The Future Course of Modern Government recognises the need for some fundamental rethinking but not at the expense of replacing existing systems and proven practices.
According to the paper, some of these systems and practices would disappear over time, but there were certain underlying issues of public administration that were perennial challenges which any new public governance and management frameworks had to accommodate.
It said these included the need to balance complex and often contested notions of the public good, the ability to adjudicate between different and sometimes clashing interests and values and the need always to ensure systems of public management that were open, equitable, fair and transparent.
The paper tried to capture the sense that something important and potentially very exciting was happening to our systems of public management, without eroding the legitimacy of the larger frames of theory and good practice to which they represented an important and valuable contribution.
It included some discussion of the convergence between reforms under first the eGovernment and the Government 2.0 banners and larger programs of public sector reform.
The paper said some of the necessary changes would confront politicians and bureaucrats with uncomfortable implications for a new culture, but it heralded transitions with considerable opportunity for a more robust model of participation for better services, better and more effective policy and a capacity to repair the bonds of trust between citizens and governments.
Some of the recommendations and highlights in the paper included agreeing with the UK Public Services 2020 Commission that a combination of long-term demand, fiscal constraint and outcome failures had brought public services to a critical moment; that the next wave of public sector reforms would be formed around distributed systems, rather than centralised structures; and promoting participation in service design and delivery should be at the heart of a new agenda.
It also said that improving public services would balance earlier models of contestability and competition with the use of social media which could unleash more powerful assessments of public service failures; and more and more public services should be designed, delivered and evaluated with an open invitation for appropriate participation by those experiencing or delivering the service.
The full paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
New finance site
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has launched a new website to help people manage their personal finances.
on the money
ASIC Chairman Tony D’Aloisio said the website, MoneySmart, helped people make good financial decisions by providing free, independent and unbiased information, tools and motivation.
He said the website included 26 calculators and tools, some for use on mobile phones, to help people take simple steps to get quick answers to their questions about money, and covered not only the basics such as budgeting, saving, credit cards and loans, but also more complicated issues such as superannuation contributions, margin loans and income tax.
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said the Government had a broad and comprehensive reform agenda to improve the financial services sector and the financial wellbeing of all Australians.
“Simple, unbiased tools that increase the financial literacy of Australians such as MoneySmart.gov.au are an important part of this,” Mr Shorten said.
He said MoneySmart.gov.au had independent information, guidance and tools for all age groups about planning for retirement.
“The ‘retirement planner’ on MoneySmart.gov.au estimates what your income will be after you retire and what you can do now to boost it,” Mr Shorten said.
“It demonstrates how increasing employer contributions would give a big boost to people’s income in retirement.”
Mr D’Aloisio said the website and the underpinning strategy to improve the financial literacy of Australians was the result of a combined contribution and teamwork between the Financial Literacy Board, the Government, ASIC and industry and community groups.
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) welcomed the initiative by ASIC to provide consumers with constructive financial information about their budgeting options and who could help them manage their debts.
Chief Financial Ombudsman, Colin Neave, said FOS has seen a significant increase in people in financial difficulty in recent times.
“We are very supportive of the life stage and life event approach that ASIC has taken,” Mr Neave said.
“Our experience with complaints about financial problems confirms people need to meet different financial challenges at different stages.”
22 March, 2011
Sporting women to
The Australian Sports Commission has launched two new initiatives to promote greater female involvement in Australian sporting organisations.
get sporting chance
Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib, and Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis said the Women in Sport Leadership Register would allow women to apply online to be considered for more board or leadership positions in Australian sport.
“It is important that we get more women into senior roles in the sporting community, including senior administrative roles and representation on boards where women make a valuable contribution,” Senator Arbib said.
“The register is a free service and is specifically tailored to the sports industry, so it will meet the needs of both the individuals and the sporting organizations.”
Senator Arbib said applications has also opened for the 2011-12 Sport Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women program – an initiative of the Australian Sports Commission and the Office for Women that provided education and development opportunities for women with leadership potential.
“The Government strongly supports women who are ambitious about their future in sport, whether their ambitions lie in being elite coaches, administrators or managers of sporting organizations,” Senator Arbib said.
Ms Ellis said the grants and scholarships provided a tangible way for women to obtain the skills and attributes required to succeed in sport leadership roles.
“The Sport Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women program has supported more than 16,000 women since its inception in 2002 with a total funding allocation of $3.3 million,” Ms Ellis said.
“Women in senior sports management positions are eligible for scholarships of up to $10,000 a year for three years, individuals are eligible for one-off grants of up to $5,000 and organizations are eligible for grants of up to $10,000.”
For more information on the 2011-12 Sport Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women, or the Women in Sport Leadership Register visit this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
A new education resource to assist primary and secondary school students learn about Australia’s wartime history has been launched by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon.
for war history
Mr Snowdon said that all primary schools in Australia would receive Forever yours: stories of wartime love and friendship, with secondary schools also receiving a teachers’ guidebook, We’ll meet again - Australian stories of love in wartime.
He said this year’s resources, produced by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Australian War Memorial, provided an insight into the personal experience of war from the perspective of the relationships forged, separated, broken or lost in wartime.
“Forever yours features 10 captivating stories illustrating the love between a wife and a husband shared over letters and photos, a mother’s love for her son detailed in between the pages of a personal diary, the everlasting bond between brothers after one dies in battle and the love formed between a man and a woman from opposite sides of the world, overcoming the odds to be together,” Mr Snowden said.
“We’ll meet again is an accompanying resource specifically aimed at secondary school students which includes learning activities and opportunities for further study using the inquiry method and source documents.”
Mr Snowden said these resources had perfectly captured the personal stories of love and loss experienced by the family and friends of our servicemen and women distanced by war.
“Stories, letters, photographs, news articles and images of keepsakes are all beautifully laid out in books which are not only eye-catching and modern, but educational,” Mr Snowden said.
“I have no doubt these resources will appeal to students and teachers across the country,” he said.
“We want today’s students to have an understanding of, and an empathy for, the sacrifice of our servicemen and women, and to be grateful that it was their sacrifices that have given us the freedoms that we enjoy today - the ability to be surrounded by our families and friends, go to school, learn and live freely.”
The resources can be downloaded from this PS News link or additional copies can be purchased online from the Australian War Memorial shop.
22 March, 2011
Consumer rights pay
Consumers from non-English speaking backgrounds are expected to benefit from new resources explaining their rights under the new Australian Consumer Law.
off for newcomers
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury, said versions of the Your Shopping Rights fact sheet would be available in 29 community languages.
Mr Bradbury said that under the Australian Consumer Law, which began on 1 January, consumers had clear rights that were applied consistently around the country and it was important that people had the information they needed to understand those rights.
“The Australian Consumer Law gives consumers clarity and certainty about their rights when dealing with businesses,” Mr Bradbury said.
“In January this year I released a fact sheet for consumers called Your Shopping Rights, which tells consumers about the key rights they have when they buy goods and services, and I'm pleased to be able to release versions of Your Shopping Rights in 29 community languages.”
He said Your Shopping Rights gives consumers – whether they spoke English, Mandarin, Dinka, Spanish or Croatian – practical information about their rights and where to go if they had questions or concerns.
“There are now a wide range of information tools available to consumers, including an iPhone app, that will help them understand their rights, and I am pleased that we can now also make these tools available in a large number of commonly-spoken community languages,” Mr Bradbury said.
He said since the start of the Australian Consumer Law, every State and Territory now had the same consumer laws, and these laws applied to every business in Australia in the same way.
If consumers encounter any problems when dealing with goods and services supplied by a business, they should contact their State or Territory's fair trading office, or the ACCC on 1300 302 502.
To download a copy of the Your Shopping Rights fact sheet, or for more information on the ACL, go to this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
Auslan milestone a
A Government service for the deaf community has passed a major milestone with the 100,000th call to the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service (NABS).
good sign for deaf
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Senator Jan McLucas announced the achievement, describing the service as “invaluable.”
She said the Australian Government provided $4 million annually to support the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service.
“Making over 16,000 appointments each year, NABS provides a single point of contact to book and pay for accredited Auslan interpreters,” Senator McLucas said.
She the service was provided free for all private medical consultations that attracted a Medicare rebate, as well as a range of other specific health care consultations, including physiotherapy.
“It is giving deaf people every opportunity to access quality services, while giving them greater independence in the community,” Senator McLucas said.
“We have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from this fantastic service from clients, medical practitioners, and the estimated 500 interpreters across the country.”
She said a customer of NABS had said, “NABS makes my life a lot easier and I can look after all my medical appointments by myself.”
Senator McLucas said the NABS also offered an online Diploma of Interpreting for people interested in becoming an Auslan interpreter.
She said since 2008, 23 people had graduated as accredited paraprofessionals.
“The NABS is ensuring Australians who are deaf continue to receive quality support in the community,” Senator McLucas said.
The NABS operate from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 1pm on Saturday. For more information, visit this PS News link or phone 1800 246 948.
22 March, 2011
Big wigs join DIAC
Staff from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship made the almost-ultimate sacrifice to show their support for the Leukaemia Foundation by talking part in the World’s Greatest Shave.
shave for charity
The heads of more than 10 staff went the “full monty”, while hundreds of others coloured their hair in effort to raise more than $12,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation.
DIAC said its staff members had raised more than $110,000 from charitable events since 2009, and supporting the World’s Greatest Shave had become a departmental tradition.
The Department said this year, about 10,000 people in Australia were expected to be diagnosed with a blood cancer or related blood disorder and 40,000 were estimated to live with one now.
Canberra-based DIAC employee Simon Leonard was the highest individual fundraiser and had his locks removed for more than $3,500, smashing his $2000 target.
DIAC said several members of its senior executive would also go bald for the cause, including deputy secretary Jackie Wilson and first assistant secretary Marie Johnson.
“Losing my hair will be a small inconvenience compared with what cancer sufferers go through every day,” Ms Wilson said.
“Just as well I have already got a stash of beanies ready to wear on chilly Canberra mornings.”
The DIAC staff participating in the shave will join more than 125,000 people around the country who pledged to shave or colour their hair to raise funds for the Leukaemia Foundation.
22 March, 2011
ACMA does number
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued its third consultation paper on the future allocation of telephone numbers.
on phone numbers
ACMA said telephone numbers had historically been planned and managed as a scarce public resource and were mainly allocated against detailed rules set out in the Numbering Plan.
It said this contrasted with the way other electronic addresses such as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and internet domain names were managed, and the approach to number allocation in other jurisdictions.
The Authority said the paper, Allocation and charging of numbers, examined these assumptions, and explored emerging trends and alternative approaches.
It said among the paper’s findings was that there were more than 430 million telephone numbers still available for allocation under the current Telephone Numbering Plan, and for most number types, less than 10 per cent of the numbers were in use.
The ACMA said the paper also noted that technology was likely both to complement and substitute telephone numbers as IP-based services became more prevalent.
It said this included the shift to internet-based voice, video and data services, and the roll out of both fixed and wireless next generation networks.
Against this background, the Authority said the consultation paper examined current allocation arrangements and explored issues such as: Was the scarcity of numbers likely to remain a useful assumption on which to structure allocation arrangements or would simpler allocation and charging arrangements deliver a more efficient outcome? Were detailed prescriptive rules likely to remain appropriate for managing the numbering resource?
Could changes to methods of allocation allow more efficient use of numbers?
The ACMA is seeking submissions in response to the consultation paper by 13 April.
For more information on this paper and the first two papers in the four part series, visit this PS News link.
The final paper, due for release in a few weeks, will focus on the role that numbers play in delivering outcomes for consumers.
22 March, 2011
A national Disability Strategy for improving the lives of Australians with disability,
to enable disabled
their families and carers, has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas.
Senator McLucas said the National Disability Strategy would help to ensure that people with disability had the same opportunities as other Australians.
“It is the first time in our history that all governments have committed to a unified, national approach to improving the lives of people with disability, their families and carers,” Senator McLucas said.
She said the strategy set a 10-year reform plan for all governments to address the barriers faced by Australians with disability and would ensure that mainstream services and programs including healthcare, housing, transport and education, addressed the needs of people with disability.
“The National Disability Strategy provides the framework for change,” Senator McLucas said.
“We will continue to work with people with disability, their families and carers, and the disability services sector, to deliver changes that will improve people’s lives.”
She said the strategy was supported by a range of community participation initiatives to remove barriers and expand opportunities for people with disability and their carers, including: supporting local governments to make public spaces more accessible; supporting leadership development for people with disability; promoting liveable housing design; providing digital playback devices and improved access to digital content in public libraries; and, improving cinema access for people with hearing and vision impairment.
Senator McLucas said the Australian Government was also delivering increased funding for disability services such as supported accommodation and respite care
The National Disability Strategy is available at this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
A new report published by the Royal Commonwealth Society and overseas aid agency Plan International has named Australia as the sixth-best place in the Commonwealth to be born a girl.
for girl babies
New Zealand was named the best place in the Commonwealth to be born a girl, while Sierra Leone and Nigeria were among the worst.
According to the report, this new research showed that girls and women continue to be seriously disadvantaged and that nowhere across the Commonwealth were men and women living equally.
It said “Because You're a Girl: Growing Up in the Commonwealth” compared how well females were doing relative to males in their country across eight indicators.
The report considered: life expectancy, sheer survival, education for life, early pregnancy, studying hard, political participation, a sporting chance and the pay gap.
It showed Australia ranks well in most indicators, with particularly high results in female sports participation, along with Canada and Nigeria.
In regards to the pay gap, the Report Card, was based on the gap between women and men’s wages, rather than the levels of their earning power, allowing a comparison between the disparity in income between men and women in each Commonwealth country, rather than how much a woman earns in one country compared to another.
The report card showed that Report Card that the pay gap between men and women in Australia is 27 per cent (or roughly US$10,000), whereas the pay gap between men and women in Bangladesh is 54 per cent (or roughly US$845).
The report suggested that it was political will – and not economic wealth – which was most important in advancing gender equality.
It showed some of the poorest countries in the Commonwealth do relatively well against the eight indicators used in the report, while some rich countries remain a long way off gender equality.
The report aligns with the Commonwealth's 2011 theme, “Women as Agents of Change”.
The report can be downloaded at this PS News link.
22 March, 2011
More resources for
A new apprenticeship training program and $200 million in funding has been announced to address critical skills shortages in the national resources sector.
The 18-month training program is expected to attract 1,000 workers and, along with other initiatives, lead to immediate assistance for the sector.
Releasing the Government’s response to the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce report, Minister for Skills, Senator Chris Evans said funding is being targeted at practical, industry-based solutions designed to deliver skilled workers.
Senator Evans said the Government was accepting all of the 31 recommendations detailed in the Resourcing the Future report which provided a comprehensive workforce plan for the resources sector.
He said implementing the recommendations was the first stage of a National Resource Sector Workforce Strategy.
“Implementing these recommendations will immediately assist the resources sector meet its increasing demand for skilled labour while maintaining the national momentum on addressing skills shortages,” Senator Evans said.
“Under the adult apprenticeship project, experienced workers will have their existing skills recognized and be given the opportunity to complete the competencies required to get a full trade qualification in just 18 months.”
He said existing resource sector employees and workers from across Australia would be recruited and on and off-the-job training provided so companies would benefit immediately from a boost to their workforces.
“This innovation follows the Government’s commitment to simplify and reform the Australian Apprenticeship system to ensure it is better targeted to meet the critical skills needs of the Australian economy,” Senator Evans said.
He said Industry and Government would each provide $2 million to co-fund the scheme which would be managed by East Coast Apprenticeships.
The Government had also opened the $200 million Critical Skills Investment Fund to partner with industry to provide training and employment opportunities.
Information on the Critical Skills Investment Fund and the submission of expressions of interest for industry training and workforce development projects are available from this PS News link.
Submissions close on Friday, 8 April.
22 March, 2011
Veterans’ service closer
A new program to improve the health of chronically ill veterans and war widows is closer to being introduced after service partners were selected.
The innovative Coordinated Veterans’ Care (CVC) Program, which starts on 1 May, is a positive step towards improving the wellbeing and quality of life of those who have proudly served Australia and their dependants.
Bupa Health Dialog has been selected as the Primary Service Provider, the Australian General Practice Network will provide training in chronic disease management to General Practitioners (GPs) and nurses, and Grosvenor Management Consulting will monitor the program and provide an independent evaluation of its effectiveness.
More information about the program is available from this PS News link.
Private schools grow
Private school student numbers continue to grow in Australia, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The figures show last year the number of students in Australian schools increased by 26,071 with 63 per cent of those consisting of private school students.
This increase in students and the distribution between private and public schools has been similar for the last 2 years.
For more than 10 years, the number of students in private schools has increased by more than the number students in public schools, with the number of students in private schools increasing by 21 per cent compared with an only 1 per cent increase in students attending government schools since 2000.
Study finds evidence lacking
The Commonwealth Ombudsman was unable to find evidence to support claims about the alleged use of cattle prods against asylum seekers on Christmas Island.
The Ombudsman said inspection of video footage taken by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship did not show evidence of the use of any type of weapon.
The Ombudsman reaffirms the Office’s understanding of the following: batons or maglite type torches or other implements that may be confused with “cattle prod” like weapons were not part of the standard kit of resources used by Serco staff, and staff were authorised to use restraints only as a “last resort” and these were limited to handcuffs/flexicuffs, restraint belts and ankle manacles.
The Ombudsman’s enquiries are ongoing.
Public comment has been invited on draft national laws to standardise the registration of business names across Australia.
Under the proposed legislation, businesses will pay only one fee in the order of $70 to register their business name nationally for three years.
The reform will also introduce a government online service to deliver tailored information to businesses about their regulatory requirements – licences, registrations and permits – known as the Australian Business Licence Information Service or ABLIS.
The draft bills and explanatory information are available at this PS News link until 24 April, the closing date for public submissions with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
GG welcomes student
Government House reached an historic milestone last week, when the Governor-General welcomed the 30,000th school student to visit since she took office in September 2008.
Government House is host to an average of eight school tours a week during school terms, with each tour comprising around 70 schoolchildren.
The children are given tours of the House and gardens, and the role of the Governor-General is discussed with household staff.
Passport fees waived
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd said Australians who have lost their passports during Japan’s natural disaster will not have to pay to replace them.
He said the Australian Government would waive fees for replacing valid passports lost, damaged, destroyed or unavailable due to the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.
Affected passport holders or people requiring emergency passport assistance should contact the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) on 131 232.
More information on the passport fee waiver arrangements is available on this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
New website nets
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has unveiled a new website of Government datasets for public use.
Announced by Special Minister of State, Gary Gray, data.gov.au extends the Government’s policy towards more open Government outlined in its Declaration of Open Government and Freedom of Information reforms.
“The release of public sector information allows the commercial, research and community sectors to use data generated and collected by the Government and add value in new, innovative and exciting ways,” Mr Gray said.
“I encourage everyone to explore and reuse the datasets available on the site.”
He said agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) already released large amounts of data to the public.
“An important goal of data.gov.au is to provide a broader range of agencies the opportunity to similarly release more data online,” Mr Gray said.
He said there were currently more than 200 datasets available on data.gov.au, including economic, taxation and environmental data.
Mr Gray said the site also provided links to other Government data catalogues such as My School, MyHospitals, the Australian Spatial Data Directory and the Queensland Government Information Service.
He said the release of data.gov.au replaced the data.australia.gov.au beta site, which was developed for the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s Mashup Australia contest in 2009.
Mr Gray said on the new site, people could: suggest datasets they would like released by Australian Government agencies; participate on the site by rating and commenting on datasets; provide feedback and suggestions for site improvements; and contribute submissions of mashups or data-based initiatives they produce.
He said Australian Government agencies had been encouraged to make data open and reusable for the public through data.gov.au, and AGIMO, in conjunction with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, was preparing best practice guidance to assist agencies with the technical aspects of publishing public sector information.
15 March, 2011
Equal Opportunity to
A range of reforms to the laws governing equal opportunity for women in the workplace and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), have been announced by the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
become more equal
Ms Ellis said under these reforms, businesses would for the first time, be required to report on the actual figures of gender composition of their organizations and their boards, on their employment conditions, and whether they had flexible work practices for men and women.
She said where businesses were previously required to establish and report on workplace equity plans, they would now report on tangible outcomes about how women and men were faring in the workplace.
Ms Ellis said pay equity would be enshrined in the objects of the Act and businesses would be required to report against it, allowing the Government to see where gender pay gaps were emerging, improving or growing.
She said the Agency would be given robust new powers to ensure that businesses were complying with the legislation.
Ms Ellis said the power of the EOWA Director to waive the requirement that a business had to report would be removed.
She said the Government wants to know what is happening in all businesses with more than 100 employees – with no exceptions.
Ms Ellis said businesses who did not comply with the Act would be ineligible to receive Government funded grants or access industry assistance.
She said to reflect the Agency’s new focus, EOWA would be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and would be led by a new Director, Ms Helen Conway.
The new legislation will be introduced this year, with the first reports under the new system scheduled to start in 2013.
For more information on the Australian Government’s reforms to EOWA and its underlying legislation go to this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
Union report juggles
A survey of female Public Servants by the Community and Public Sector Union has found that many are failing to achieve the right work-life balance.
The CPSU’s annual What Women Want, surveyed 10,000 working women and found two in five believed accessing flexible hours or taking leave for family reasons would disadvantage their career.
According to the survey, one in two said juggling work and family life wasn’t easy and one in five respondents said that they were dissatisfied with their work-life balance.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said however, the survey also found that six in 10 women had the option of improving their work-life balance under current work entitlements.
She said of the reasons given for not accessing the leave they were entitled to, respondents cited: they were too busy; current staff levels would not cover their absence; or they had unsupportive supervisors.
Ms Flood said women were under increasing pressure at work and home.
“Women in the public sector have fought for and won some reasonable flexible working conditions in their agreements,” she said.
“However, our survey shows clearly that having a technical right to access leave does not always mean women will get to use it.”
Ms Flood said the survey also revealed a dramatic increase in the number of women who are being contacted by their employers outside work hours, increasing from 35 per cent of women in 2008 to 44 per cent last year.
She said the issues around access to flexible working conditions were complex, but it was clear that women were getting squeezed at work and home.
Ms Flood said the What Women Want survey also found: nearly one in five full-time women was working an additional 10 or more hours each week; and one in three women say they have little or no influence over whether they work additional hours.
15 March, 2011
Healthy report on
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed that the number of new medical claims lodged by Public Service workers in 2007-08 was significantly less than in earlier years.
PS medical claims
The report said that although the 1,300 or so claims lodged that year were similar in number to 2006-07, they represented a drop of about a third on the previous three years.
Jenny Hargreaves of the Institute’s Hospitals and Performance Group said Public Sector claims were examined in Australia’s public sector medical indemnity claims 2007-2008.
She said the report examined data on the number, nature, incidence and costs of medical indemnity claims in the public sector during the financial year from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.
Ms Hargreaves said it was released alongside another report, Public and private sector medical indemnity claims in Australia 2007-08, which was the first time the Institute has been able to present the total number of medical indemnity claims across Australia.
She said the Public Sector report described the allegations of harm that gave rise to claims, the alleged physical and mental effects on claim subjects, the specialties of clinicians involved, and the size, duration and outcomes of the medical indemnity claims.
Ms Hargreaves said the report was the sixth in the series on public sector medical indemnity claims, presenting data on claims open during the 2007-08 financial year and updates claim characteristics over the period 2003-04 to 2006-07.
The report showed there were 1,292 “new claims” opened at some time in 2007-08.
According to the report, the number of new claims was similar to 2006-07 (1,306) and less than approximately 2,000 claims each year between 2003-04 and 2005-06.
The report said the proportion of “new claims” related to the clinical service context of Obstetrics remained relatively steady over the five year period (14-16 per cent) and Accident and Emergency fluctuated between 15 per cent and 21 per cent.
It said “new claims” relating to General surgery made up 12 per cent of claims in 2007-08 and in 2003-04, however there was a peak of 30 per cent in 2005-06.
According to the report, the increased proportion of “new claims” that year was affected by claims against one general surgeon in one state.
The report showed claims closed between 2003-04 and 2007-08 varied between about 1,600 and 2,200 each year.
The full reports can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
More information on
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has released a discussion paper on the new Information Publication Scheme that will apply to APS Departments and Agencies from 1 May.
The paper discusses the publication of “disclosure logs” required by all agencies, setting out details of the information they have released in response to Freedom of Information requests.
Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said the disclosure logs must be available on all Agencies’ websites and support the new FOI message which is focused on promoting open Government.
“The purpose of the disclosure log is to provide the public with ready access to information that has already been publicly released by an Agency or Minister,” Professor McMillan said.
“Disclosure logs, together with the Information Publication Scheme, will facilitate a pro-disclosure culture across Government.”
He said the OAIC, which commenced operations on 1 November 2010, had a range of functions relating to freedom of information (FOI), privacy and government information policy, and was a key component of the Australian Government’s open government reform process.
Professor McMillan said he was impressed by how Australian Government agencies had embraced the notion of government information as a national resource.
“I’m delighted that Australian Government agencies are increasingly adopting a pro-disclosure culture,” he said.
Professor McMillan said a preliminary challenge in the Office’s first few months had been to integrate FOI, privacy and Government information policy into a single office and define a philosophy that reflected their integration.
“The core privacy message is focused on protecting personal information, whereas the FOI message is focused on promoting open Government,” he said.
“The challenge for the OAIC is to foster a culture of openness that also protects the privacy of individuals.”
The Office has invited comments on the discussion paper on disclosure logs until 28 March at this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
PS supermums to
The Australian Public Service Commission has been criticised by the Community and Public Sector Union for its stance on superannuation payments for women during unpaid maternity leave.
miss out on super
According to the union, by recommending that no superannuation be paid during those times, the APSC was out of step with Government policy on retirement income.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood, said the Commission had included a clause in its recommended common terms and conditions for the coming round of APS enterprise bargaining, directing Agencies to limit superannuation payments to periods of leave that counted as service.
“The Government has acknowledged that the difference in retirement savings of men and women in Australia is a significant problem,” Ms Flood said.
“It’s clear that the break in women’s employment to start a family is a huge factor in that difference.”
She said a number of Agencies had already recognised the problem and responded by adopting enterprise agreements that included superannuation payments during periods of unpaid maternity leave.
“The new provision addressed the longstanding inequity in retirement savings,” Ms Flood said.
“What has been achieved in these agencies is a significant precedent and we are keen to include it in other new agreements.”
She said research had shown that helping employees build better retirement incomes now prevented problems arising in the years ahead.
“We are struggling to understand why the APSC is going backwards and trying to stamp out progress on this important issue,” Ms Flood said.
She said under the APSC policy, agencies hoping to negotiate or retain conditions that were better than the Government’s new standard, needed to get permission from the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray.
“At a time when major private sector employers are creating new flexible working conditions to attract women, it’s extraordinary that the APSC would move to limit these innovations in the public sector
“If securing a better deal on super for women is a national priority, why is the APSC moving the other way?”
According to the CPSU it raised its concerns about the matter with the APSC and Mr Gray but to no avail.
Ms Flood said the agencies that made superannuation payments during unpaid maternity leave included the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Comcare and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
15 March, 2011
A discussion paper looking into opportunities to reform the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Scheme has been released for public comment by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
gets call to review
Senator Conroy said the paper forms part of the continuing reforms to telecommunications consumer safeguards.
“The recently released TIO statistics show that complaints to the Ombudsman remain at very high levels and this is not acceptable,” Senator Conroy said.
“While I acknowledge the hard work the TIO does to deliver consumers with quick and effective solutions, I want to ensure it has the appropriate tools to deal with complaints.”
He said to compliment the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s ‘Reconnecting the Customer’ inquiry and the Communications Alliance’s review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code, he had asked the Department to examine options for reforming the TIO scheme.
“I strongly encourage both industry and consumer advocacy groups, along with members of the public who have had dealings with the TIO, to respond to the discussion paper,” Senator Conroy said.
“This will help provide valuable insights into the way the telecommunications industry is dealing with its customers.”
He said following consultation on the issues raised in the discussion paper, options for reform would be put forward in the first half of 2011.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Simon Cohen welcomed the release of the discussion paper, saying it was important to regularly review the Ombudsman scheme, to ensure it was providing the maximum benefit to the community and industry.
He said the paper was one of several reviews aimed at improving consumer safeguards in the telecommunications industry.
“I welcome all measures to improve consumer protections and this discussion paper is one of a range of reviews currently underway with the aim of achieving that,” Mr Cohen said.
A copy of the discussion paper and details about how submissions can be made to the Department can be found at this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed a big pool of under-employed Australians who are looking for more work.
in full-time need
Almost three quarters of a million (733,900) part-time workers stated they did not have enough paid employment in September 2010.
This represents 22 per cent of all part-time workers. Over half (55 per cent) of all under-employed part-time workers said they wanted to work full-time, which is classed at 35 hours a week or more.
One in two under-employed part-time workers said they were actively looking for more hours of work.
The most common steps taken to find extra employment were to ask their current employer (62 per cent), contact a prospective employer (53 per cent), or search the internet (51 per cent).
More than half (59 per cent) of all under-employed part-time workers preferred to work more hours with their current employer.
Older workers tended to experience longer periods of under-employment. One in two (49 per cent) under-employed part-time workers aged 45-54 years, and 52 per cent of those aged 55 years and over, had been under-employed for one year or more.
In comparison, just 25 per cent of underemployed workers aged 15-19 years had been under-employed for one year or more.
Further information is available in Underemployed Workers, Australia, September 2010, which can be downloaded at this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
Centrelink has announced that it expects to claw back about $1.2 million in disaster relief from people not entitled to it following recent weather events.
The Agency’s Minister, Tanya Plibersek, said people found to have claimed the money fraudulently would be referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
“We know the majority of people who claimed for assistance following the summer disasters were in genuine need of help,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Unfortunately, it now appears that some of those people either mistakenly claimed when they weren’t entitled, or actually rorted the system.”
Ms Plibersek said Centrelink’s taskforce on flood payment rorts had flagged some 5,340 payments for further examination following tip-offs and computer cross-checks.
She said of the 5,340, approximately 2,052 reviews or investigations of claims had been finalised resulting in debts raised of $1.2 million, and claimants with debts found to have committed deliberate fraud would be referred for prosecution.
Ms Plibersek said some $770 million had been paid to more than 663,000 disaster claimants under the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP), and more than 28,000 claims had been rejected.
She said persons convicted of fraud faced large fines and even imprisonment.
“Anyone who attempted to rort the social security system by falsely claiming they were affected by the summer disasters will be required to pay the money back and could face criminal prosecution,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said Centrelink worked with the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and AUSTRAC.
Ms Plibersek said in the 2009-2010 financial year, Centrelink conducted three and a half million customer eligibility and entitlement reviews, and referred 3,400 customers for prosecutions, with a conviction rate of 99.3 per cent.
People can report suspected fraud by calling the tip-off line on 13 15 24 or by going online at this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
GG goes wild
The Official Secretary to the Governor-General, Stephen Brady, has defended Government House against media claims it overspent on flowers.
According to Mr Brady, the reports in News Limited newspapers were “unbalanced and misleading”.
He said the articles had not included important responses his Office had provided.
Mr Brady said when asked for responses to queries concerning the cost of flowers, the Office had provided the following response: “Flowers are sourced according to the Government’s Procurement Guidelines, and are provided to the Office at the best market price. The flowers are used in all the public rooms, and have been enjoyed by over 102,000 visitors since September 2008. Visitors at these historic properties expect to see flowers as part of the presentation of the official residences.”
Mr Brady said the flowers had also been displayed in connection with the Governor-General’s official hospitality for more than 23,000 official guests.
He said the Office was also asked for a response from the Governor-General, and it had replied: “The Governor-General has no involvement in the day-to-day management of the Houses, and therefore has no comment.”
Mr Brady said Government House had responded quickly to queries arising from 16 FOI requests, and it was deeply disappointing that the opportunity to address the issues raised was excluded from the reports.
“There was also a reference to a story concerning the serving of biscuits at Government House,” Mr Brady said.
“The Office corrected this misleading report concerning a Royal Australian Air Force Association garden tour on September the 10th, when a group of visitors was offered shelter from the rain.”
He said the report was corrected and published on 6 February on the Governor-General’s website and in Senate Estimates hearings on 21 February, but the corrections were not published in the newspaper reports.
“In the interests of complete transparency, our Office will publish the full list of FOI questions submitted by News Limited, and our comprehensive responses on our website, www.gg.gov.au,” Mr Brady said.
15 March, 2011
A joint research project between the Australian and United States Departments of Veterans’ Affairs has been announced to investigate the impact of recent conflicts on the health of returned service people.
Australia’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowden said the program would be conducted in three phases involving short, medium and longer-term comparative research.
He said in the first phase, scheduled for completion in six months, researchers would review previous studies on this topic which would help inform the final stages of the research collaboration.
Mr Snowden said although both countries conduct their own extensive research on veterans’ health, this joint effort would allow both nations to take advantage of larger data sets and comparative analyses to learn best practices and treatments that could help returning veterans manage post-deployment health effects.
“While the Australian and US military experience has differed, with both countries serving in different locations and frontlines, we can collaborate on reaching a common understanding of the impact of war on our service personnel,” Mr Snowden said.
US Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki said this joint effort would complement the extensive work US VA continued to support in both leading research, advancing treatment, and supporting evidence-based treatments for American veterans, with DVA conducting similar work.
“The health and welfare of those who have served our nation, and their families, remains the highest priority for VA,” Mr Shinseki said.
“Joint research between the United States and Australia will shed light on similarities and differences with respect to the health effects of recent military deployments we have in common, such as Afghanistan.”
More information about U.S. VA’s research can be found at this PS News link and more information about DVA’s research can be found at this PS News link.
15 March, 2011
Translation DVD is
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has released a new DVD explaining how its 24-hour Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) phone service works.
talk of the town
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, said the language-bridging DVD was designed to assist English speakers to communicate with non-English speakers and revealed how the department helped clients around the clock in some 180 languages and dialects.
Senator Lundy said departmental staff designed, produced and even “starred” in the guide to the TIS National service.
“The DVD promotes TIS National’s user-friendliness and provides practical demonstrations of how this service works,” Senator Lundy said.
“It is a tool for promoting awareness of the importance of using interpreters to ensure clients not proficient in English receive accurate information.”
She said the DVD had three chapters: a guide to TIS National services, working with interpreters, and services for medical practitioners.
Senator Lundy said it could also be distributed in four formats: as a DVD, on the department’s YouTube channel ImmiTV for external audiences, in a shortened form for email distribution by departmental staff, and on the department’s intranet for internal departmental use.
She said for 500,000 people living in Australia who were unable to speak English well or at all, TIS National provided access to Government and private sector services.
“The TIS network is a lifeline for many non-English speakers, and helps them engage and participate in the Australian community,” Senator Lundy said.
She said in 2009-10, TIS National delivered 831,000 telephone services and 53,000 on-site or face-to-face interpreting assignments.
The DVD can be viewed via YouTube on ImmiTV at:
15 March, 2011
Good result for
Figures on industrial disputes released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the Fair Work Act is working, according to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans.
Fair Work Act
Senator Evans said the results confirmed the Fair Work Act was continuing to deliver industrial stability and certainty.
He said the number of days lost due to industrial disputes decreased by nearly 20,000 in the December quarter.
Senator Evans said the industrial dispute rate for the December 2010 quarter fell to 2.7 working days lost per thousand employees, down from 4.7 working days lost per thousand employees in the September quarter.
He said over the year to the 2010 September quarter the number of working days lost due industrial disputes was tracking at 14.8 per thousand employees.
This figure had now dropped to 12.8 with the release of the December quarter data.
“These conditions support our growing economy and give business the confidence to employ people,” Senator Evans said.
“The data shows the Fair Work Act is working well and delivering low levels of industrial disputation, historic levels of agreement making, moderate wages growth and low unemployment.”
He said the Fair Work Act contained strong provisions to regulate industrial action.
Senator Evans said more than 8,000 new agreements covering more than 900,000 employees had been approved under the Fair Work Act in 2010.
“It is clear that the majority of employers and employees are using the Fair Work system to work out their differences in a mature and productive way,” he said.
15 March, 2011
Green paper digs into
A discussion paper on the future of the Caring for our Country program has been released for public comment.
Minister for Sustainability, Tony Burke said people involved in managing natural resources were invited to have their say on the paper.
“This discussion paper aims to start a conversation about Caring for our Country to help inform a review of the initiative,” Mr Burke said.
He said under Caring for our Country, the Government was investing $2 billion over five years to achieve environments that were healthy, better protected and supported sustainable production in a changing climate.
Mr Burke said since 2008, more than $1.7 billion had been committed to support new projects involving farmers, Indigenous groups, regional natural resource management organizations, Landcare and other volunteer environmental groups across Australia.
“We have made significant achievements in the first three years including enhancing the connectivity of native habitats and ecological communities, improving the water quality of runoff into the Great Barrier Reef through Reef Rescue, expanding the Indigenous Protected Area network and employing hundreds of new Indigenous rangers,” Mr Burke said.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said through Caring for our Country a national network of regional Landcare facilitators had been established, progress had been made against combating the destructive impacts of cane toads and camels, and there had been improvements in sustainable farm practices across the country.
“As the initiative approaches the midpoint of its current funding cycle, it is important that we receive the views of our stakeholders and discuss how Caring for our Country is meeting its objectives,” Mr Ludwig said.
The Caring for our Country discussion paper is available at this PS News link.
To have your say, join the online forum at this PS News link, email email@example.com or call 1800 552 008.
15 March, 2011
A new national scheme for registering domestic and family violence orders has been agreed to by all the States and Territories.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis welcomed the agreement of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to implement a national scheme in order to improve protection for victims of domestic violence.
Mr McClelland said the proposed scheme would allow a domestic or family violence order (DVO) issued by a court in one jurisdiction to be automatically recognised in other jurisdictions.
“Under current arrangements, if a protected person wants to have their DVO recognised in another jurisdiction they have to ‘register’ the order with a court in that jurisdiction – putting the onus entirely on the victim,” Mr McClelland said.
“Many people fleeing domestic violence may not be aware of the requirement to register the order if moving interstate.”
He said some protected people were also too fearful for their safety to approach a court.
“Under the national scheme, victims of domestic violence will be able to travel or move to another State and Territory and be automatically protected by their DVO,” Mr McClelland said.
“Allowing court issued domestic and family violence orders to be valid and enforceable across State and Territory borders is an important improvement in the protection of victims of domestic violence.”
Ms Ellis said the national DVO scheme was a key commitment in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their children 2010 – 2022.
“The National Plan, launched last month, is a single unified strategy that brings together efforts across Governments to reduce violence against women,” Ms Ellis said.
“The Commonwealth and state and territory governments are committed to reducing domestic violence, and strengthening family violence laws is an important part of this priority.”
States and Territories would now work together to draft legislation to give effect to this agreement.
15 March, 2011
Taskforce to seize
A new Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce has been created as the latest weapon in the law enforcement arsenal against organised crime.
Announced jointly by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, the new taskforce will draw on the resources of the Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Taxation Office and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr O’Connor said the Taskforce would use the Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Act to boost the identification of assets that should be seized and strengthen the pursuit of wealth collected by criminals at the expense of the community.
“We know that money is the lifeblood of organised crime and by stopping the flow of criminal funds we can smash a hole in these illegal syndicates,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Organised crime costs Australia an estimated $15 billion a year and the social and environmental repercussions of the often violent crimes are immeasurable.”
Attorney-General McClelland said that since the introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act in 1987, more than $210 million of assets had been confiscated by the Commonwealth.
“We know that there are a lot more ill-gotten gains in Australia that could and should be seized under this legislation,” Mr McClelland said.
“That’s why this multi-agency team has been established to focus on depriving criminals of their funds so they cannot use those assets in future to fund further offences against the Australian community.”
He said the taskforce would also act as a deterrent to criminals, knowing that authorities would be in a stronger position to track the assets they had acquired through crime.
Mr McClelland said the taskforce would take an intelligence-led approach to the identification of potential criminal asset confiscation targets and would use the combined intelligence, operations, legal and policy resources of participating agencies to achieve successful seizures of criminal assets.
He said through close collaboration, better identification and prosecution of matters could be achieved and strategies could be developed for the most effective and appropriate confiscation approach to each individual case.
15 March, 2011
The staff of CSIRO have launched a program of rolling strikes in support of a pay claim.
Union members in the organisation say negotiations over a 4.6 per cent rise have stalled.
The initial action is expected to involve about 500 staff in Victoria and NSW, stopping work for short periods but could spread to more employees interstate.
Climate update welcomed
The newly established Climate Commission has welcomed the update to the Garnaut Climate Change Review, stating that there is increasing scientific evidence of climate change and its impacts.
Professor Will Steffen, a contributor to Professor Garnaut’s Review update, said the Review showed there was an overwhelming need for increasing action on climate change.
A key finding of the Review showed that there was a link between expectations for a warming world and temperature related extreme events.
Professor Steffen said the science was now 90 per cent certain that human emissions of greenhouse gases were the main cause of the warming observed over the last half-century.
Note Printer fined
An environmental incident last July has led to the Commonwealth Government-owned note printing plant in Craigieburn being fined nearly $6,000.
The company notified the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) when a contractor on site noticed green liquid trickling through the stormwater system.
EPA officers investigated and confirmed an unknown amount of wiping solution waste had entered the system.
The company has 28 days to pay the fine, have the matter dealt with in court or seek an internal review.
Support for pregnant women
The Fair Work Ombudsman has urged employers to check their workplace agreements to ensure they are not inadvertently breaching federal workplace laws on pregnancy discrimination.
The warning follows the discovery that a supermarket was unwittingly contravening the law by transferring pregnant employees to lower-paid “safe jobs”.
The Fair Work Act stipulates that where a pregnant employee with at least 12 months service is transferred to a safe job, it must be with no change to her terms and conditions of employment.
Other employers were urged to check their own Collective Agreements as it could be a common provision in hundreds of agreements, placing employers in breach of Section 81(3) of the Fair Work Act.
Carbon commitment ‘strong’
A report released by the Global CCS Institute says the global commitment to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies remained strong.
The Global Status of CCS: 2010 identifies 234 active or planned CCS projects ranging across technologies, project types and sectors at the end of 2010, a net increase of 21 projects since the previous year.
The Institute’s Interim CEO, John Hartwell said the Institute anticipated that during 2011 a number of projects will have completed concept definition studies.
He said CCS was a critically important emissions reduction tool.
The Global Status of CCS: 2010 and the Economic Assessment of Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies can be found at this PS News link.
Irish exhibition opens
A major exhibition about the history of the Irish in Australia is due tol open at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on St Patrick’s Day.
Not Just Ned: A true history of the Irish in Australia traces the arrival of the Irish on the First Fleet to the back packer tourists of today, and includes more than 400 objects from all over Australia, the US, New Zealand and Ireland.
Suggested to the Museum by the National Australian Irish Business Association, more information about the exhibition can be obtained from visit this PS News link.
New 20c coin
A new coin 20 cent coin celebrating the centenary of International Women’s Day, will be released into public circulation.
The coin, to be issued by the Royal Australian Mint, will honour the past and future contributions of women to the development of Australia’s prosperity.
The coin design is being developed in consultation with Mint designers, the Australian Government Office for Women and UN Women Australia and will be seen in public circulation in the coming months.
International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated on 8 March.
Defence training grants
Applications are now open for training grants for Australia’s Defence industry.
Funding from the grants can be used to help pay for: trade apprenticeships support; university courses; short technical courses; TAFE courses; and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) training.
The program will support up to 5,000 workers to develop technical, trade and professional skills while working in the Australian Defence Industry.
Applications close at midnight (AEST) April 6.
To apply for a SADI grant, or for more information, visit this PS News link or call the SADI hotline on 1800 651 292.
Help for Vietnam centre
The Australian Government has made a commitment to provide $3.3 million towards a world-first education centre in Washington DC honouring Vietnam veterans.
The Vietnam Veterans Education Centre will be a state-of-the-art digital education and exhibit facility located on the Mall in Washington, dedicated to educating visitors about the Vietnam War.
Australia’s contribution will help fund a “Wall of Faces”, a photographic image display of 520 Australian War Dead from the Vietnam War alongside their US comrades.
Construction on the centre is planned to begin in 2012.
For more information, visit this PS News link.
Forty Indigenous jobseekers are now ready to take on jobs in the retail sector following their graduation from the Retail Skills Indigenous Employment Program in Sydney.
The graduates received a Certificate II in Retail and an Aussie Host Customer Service Skills Certificate, a qualification delivered by the Australian Retail Association.
The program, which was funded through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Employment Program (IEP), was specifically designed to increase the take up of careers in the retail industry by Indigenous people, using industry specific training and work experience placements.
The Australian Government has returned ancient artefacts to Cambodia at a ceremony jointly hosted by the Royal Embassy of Cambodia and the Prime Minister & Cabinet Office of the Arts.
The Iron Age ornaments, including earrings and bangles, were looted from graves in Southeast Asia and were returned to the Cambodian Ministry for Culture and Fine Arts for safe keeping under a new cultural agreement.
The items were seized under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.
Under this legislation it is an offence to import an object that is prohibited from export under cultural heritage legislation of its country of origin.
8 March, 2011
The Australian Public Service Commission has developed a range of common terms and conditions of employment to be used in the upcoming round of enterprise bargaining.
on common ground
The Commission has also published a number of ‘model clauses’ that could be included in a final Enterprise Agreement.
In a supporting document to APSC Circular 2011/2, the Commission sets out its common terms saying the new APS Bargaining Framework requires agencies to do their best to include the model clauses in their negotiated Agreements.
“It is Government policy that agencies should work towards achieving the recommended terms and conditions, in order to support the ‘one APS’ concept,” the supporting document says.
“They are not intended to prevent agencies from bargaining terms and conditions in good faith or limit agencies’ capacity to do so.”
The Commission says failure to include the model clauses would not affect the legitimacy of an Agreement as long as the conditions were arrived at through a “good faith bargaining process”.
Among the APSC’s recommended common terms and conditions are those relating to leave and redundancy entitlements, hours of work, remuneration and other workplace issues.
It offers model clauses for public holidays, parental leave, long service leave, Christmas closedown, portability of leave, redeployment, reduction and retrenchment (RRR) for existing and new agencies as well as superannuation, dispute resolution and consultation.
The document also offers a model clause for Individual Flexibility Arrangements which would apply to staff wishing to modify the enterprise agreement to take account of personal circumstances.
The Commission has also released a list of salary thresholds for different classifications to be used when offering staff below the 5th salary percentile a higher than usual payrise.
“The minimum salary thresholds for each classification have been calculated from remuneration data collected from a census of all APS employees currently employed under the Public Service Act 1999,” the document says.
“Employee salary has been calculated as the sum of base salary plus performance pay.”
The new salary thresholds are APS1 $32,800; APS2 $43,100; APS3 $49,100; APS4 $55,300; APS5 $61,600; APS6 $67,900; EL1 $86,000; and EL2 $102,200.
The APSC Circular 2011/2: Salary Threshold Advice Relating to Part 2.1 of the Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework and Supporting Guidance can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 March, 2011
A new scholarship program for EL1 and 2 middle managers in the APS to study for a PhD at the Australian National University has been announced by the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation.
for EL leaders
The new PhD program will be coordinated and administered by the ANU and will provide middle managers with exceptional leadership potential with the opportunity to undertake studies on topics of priority, relevance and enduring interest to the APS.
The Sir Roland Wilson Foundation was established in 1998 with donations from ANU and the Wilson family estate to advance the study and development of public policy and management within Australia and internationally.
The Foundation will be offering three new PhD scholarships to APS employees.
According to the Foundation, these scholarships would be among the most prestigious and the most generous in the country and would allow committed APS employees the opportunity to study full-time at the ANU.
It said scholarship holders would be supported at their full salary for the duration of a full-time PhD (three years) to undertake research in their selected areas.
The Foundation said successful applicants would be enrolled as PhD candidates at ANU and supervised by leading academics in their area of research, as well as being mentored by executive level public servants.
Scholarship holders would also receive an additional stipend to conduct a component of their research overseas.
According to the Foundation, candidates would also be required to present a mid-term review and a final thesis presentation to a public sector audience in the spirit of maintaining connections with their Portfolio during their studies.
The Foundation is now seeking eligible public servants for the 2011 round and has urged Departments and Agencies to make potential candidates aware of the opportunity.
There will be an information evening for prospective applicants 16 March in the Sir Roland Wilson Building at the ANU at 5.30pm.
Further details on the program and the application process can be found at this PS News link.
8 March, 2011
New gender panel to
A new Gender Panel has been established in Canberra to ensure that Australian Government policies and programs benefit women and men equally.
push equality in PS
In announcing the panel, Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis said that the Australian Government was committed to making sure that policies and programs reflected the needs of both genders.
“The new Gender Panel will work to improve gender expertise across all Australian Government departments and agencies,” Ms Ellis said.
“The Gender Panel consists of 38 organizations and individuals who can provide expert advice to the Government on who we can make our policies, programs administrative processes better serve women.”
She said she was confident that with the expertise offered by panel members, the Australian Government would be able to continue delivering on its commitment to gender equality.
Ms Ellis said the gender experts would offer a range of services, including research, evaluation, training, provision of policy advice and the development of educational materials.
She said that the Gender Panel was an important step towards ensuring that a gender lens was applied throughout the work of the Government and would be a valuable new resource for public servants and politicians.
Ms Ellis said further information and advice about the Gender Panel was available via email through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agencies will be able to procure panel services through the FaHCSIA website at this PS News link.
8 March, 2011
Aid review goes
A second review of pay and conditions applying to Australian aid advisers has been ordered, this time targeting Public Service staff.
back for seconds
Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd said this was a vital step in ensuring advisers under the aid program, whether commercially engaged or a Government employee, were value for money.
He said it followed the recent introduction of a standardised remuneration framework for commercially engaged advisers.
“The remuneration framework recently introduced by AusAID ensures that we have a consistent approach to commercial salaries and allowances,” Mr Rudd said.
“It has resulted in a reduction in maximum fee levels of around 25 per cent.”
He said while the first framework covered the vast majority of overseas aid advisers, a similar approach was also needed in regards to the remuneration of Australian Government deployees engaged as advisers as part of the aid program.
Mr Rudd said the review would examine the range of terms and conditions currently being received by Australian Government officials engaged overseas as advisers in aid program delivery and provided the Government with an equitable, consistent, cost-effective approach.
He said the review would be conducted by AusAID and would look at positions in which public servants from more than 11 agencies were deployed overseas as advisers within the aid program.
Mr Rudd said the review was expected to be completed by September 2011.
He said that the recent Joint Adviser Review undertaken with partner governments had confirmed that many advisers – from private and public sectors – played an important role in transferring skills and expertise to our partner countries.
“The aim of this review will be to standardise terms and conditions for Australian Public Service employees deployed overseas as advisers under the aid program, to ensure maximum accountability, efficiency and effectiveness,” Mr Rudd said.
“We are committed to working with partner governments to help them to build communities capable of managing their own development.”
8 March, 2011
Security agencies key
New laws requiring Australia’s security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to cooperate, assist one another and share information have been welcomed by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
He said the Government’s National Security Statement and the Counter-Terrorism White Paper both underlined the need for a closer relationship between national security agencies.
Mr McClelland said the Telecommunications Interception and Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 would enable the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO) to more closely cooperate and assist one another in support of key national security priorities.
He said the Bill also provided greater flexibility for ASIO to share intelligence and information with the broader national security community, within strict guidelines.
Mr McClelland said it would also enable ASIO to cooperate with and provide assistance to law enforcement agencies in relation to telecommunications interception and other areas of expertise such as technical support, logistics and analytical advice.
He said the legislation also contained an amendment to expand the size of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which had an important oversight role of Australia’s national security and intelligence agencies.
“Ensuring our national security and law enforcement agencies have the ability to respond to threats to our national security is a key priority for the Gillard Government,” Mr McClelland said.
“The measures passed today represent a significant enhancement of the Government’s efforts to respond to important ongoing and emerging national security issues in order to protect the safety and security of Australians.”
8 March, 2011
Retirees at work
The organisation representing retired Australian Public Servants has come out in support of concerns expressed by the Defence Force Welfare Association that the current arrangements for indexing Defence Force pensions are unfair.
on unfair index
Federal President of the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association (SCOA), Dr Annette Barbetti said the matter that had been before three separate Senate Inquiries, all of which recommended a fair wage-based index for the pensions of former members of the Defence Force and former Commonwealth/Territory public servants.
She said their standard of living had been significantly eroded by the continued use of CPI indexation, and that the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the CPI was not a purchasing power or cost of living measure.
Dr Barbetti said this issue adversely affected about 300,000 senior Australians.
She said the average Commonwealth superannuation pension was more than $1,000 a year less than the combined couple rate of Age Pension and mostly supported both members of a couple.
“All they want is to have their pensions increase by the same percentage as applies to the base rate single person Age Pension,” Dr Barbetti said.
“They’re not asking for special or favoured treatment, only the national standard for indexing pensions, which has been the case for most other Government funded pensions for more than a decade.”
Dr Barbetti said that it was time the Government introduced a fair, national standard for indexing the pensions of the Government’s former employees and those who had served Australia as Defence Personnel.
She said the cost was very small in budgetary terms and there was ample money in the Future Fund to do this without affecting the budget bottom line.
“It simply needs the political will of the Government to end the unfairness,” Dr Barbetti said.
8 March, 2011
Agency takes chance
The Child Support Agency is using a new risk management model to identify parents at risk of defaulting on their child support obligations.
on risk management
The pilot project aimed to ensure children of separated parents received child support payments and mined the Child Support Agency’s data to determine which of its customers were at greatest risk of defaulting, according to Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek.
“The Government believes it is important that children receive the financial support they need to meet their housing and educational needs,” Ms Plibersek said.
“A risk management approach allows us to guide resources toward parents who may require help getting on track – before they fall into serious debt.”
She said the model identified “at risk” customers by searching the agency’s database for indicators such as employment status, payment history and distance lived away from children.
“External variables such as interest rates, tax rates, global financial influences and information applicable to where a customer lives are also fed into the model,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said indicators used by the model were weighted and, when used in combination, assessed a particular customer’s level of risk of going into debt.
Ms Plibersek said child support customers at risk of missing a payment were offered assistance including alternative payment options and/or external support such as counselling services.
She said a 2009-10 report by the Australian National Audit Office recommended the agency “develop a coordinated national approach to case selection that is risk based and provides appropriate coverage of CSA’s customers”.
Ms Plibersek said the model was similar to the Australian Tax Office compliance model which looked at taxpayer motivation, circumstances and characteristics.
She said the pilot was being conducted by two of the Child Support Agency’s 32 compliance teams, and would be evaluated in May.
8 March, 2011
DIAC taps into RAP
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has adopted its recently-launched Reconciliation Action Plan, a formal framework for its commitment to respect and value Indigenous employees.
to close the gap
Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, former Race Discrimination Commissioner and board member of Reconciliation Australia, Dr Tom Calma welcomed the release of the RAP, saying the focus on employment opportunities for Indigenous people was an important part of reconciliation.
“The employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people is a key strategy for government in closing the gap of Indigenous disadvantage,” Dr Calma said.
The Department’s secretary, Andrew Metcalfe said the framework would assist the Department in meeting its commitment to reconciliation.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees have made significant and positive contributions to our work over many years,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“A key initiative within the department’s Reconciliation Action Plan is to create increased employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.
“This is in line with the Council of Australian Government’s employment target of 2.7 per cent Indigenous employee representation across Commonwealth agencies by 2015.”
He said that currently, 0.9 per cent of departmental staff identify as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
Mr Metcalfe said this equated to 60 employees, and to meet the 2.7 per cent target, the Department would need to employ a further 220 Indigenous people.
He said, while targets set out in the RAP would be challenging, he was committed to meeting them and would closely monitor the Department’s progress.
The RAP was developed in consultation with Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees under the guidance of Reconciliation Australia and is available at this PS News link.
8 March, 2011
Fraud probe to lift
A joint operation between the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Federal Police has been launched to uncover fraudulent activity related to the Home Insulation Program (HIP).
roof on insulation
The program has since been discontinued.
Minister for Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet said 35 search warrants were executed across NSW, Queensland and Victoria as the direct result of a comprehensive forensic audit undertaken by the accounting firm KPMG, commissioned by the Government in 2010.
“On 10 March last year, I committed on behalf of the Government to pursue those unscrupulous operators who had fraudulently abused this Program,” Mr Combet said.
“The work undertaken since then by my Department, the AFP and KPMG, has been central to identifying the extent of fraud under the program.”
He said the companies and individuals targeted in the warrants were identified as having allegedly committed serious fraud.
Mr Combet said the Government and the Australian people were rightly disappointed that the Home Insulation Program had been tainted by alleged illegal conduct and the possibly fraudulent behaviour of a number of individuals.
“Through this action we are ensuring that the Australian taxpayer is not being ripped off by a minority which took advantage of the Program,” he said.
“While the Government has been upfront in relation to acknowledging there were problems in the design and implementation of this Program, there were some installers who took advantage of the Program for financial gain, and didn’t care about the impact that would have on the industry.”
The Parliamentary Secretary for Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus, said that by bringing to account people who defrauded the program, the Government was helping to restore confidence in the insulation industry.
In addition to the ongoing criminal investigation, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has launched a Debt Recovery Program, which aims to identify all debt owed from fraudulent or non-compliant activities undertaken during the Home Insulation Program, and to recover money owed to the Commonwealth.
8 March, 2011
High flying project
The Commissioner for Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo, has revealed that the giant-killing project Operation Wickenby has passed the $1 billion milestone in tax liabilities collected.
hits new heights
“At 31 January 2011, the total tax liabilities raised for the Australian community was more than $1 billion,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“To date, $240 million in cash has been collected by the ATO – a sum that will continue to rise as liabilities are finalised.”
Mr D’Ascenzo said, in addition, Wickenby had changed people’s behaviour.
“More than $306 million in tax has been collected due to improved compliance by people who have been subject to Wickenby action,” he said.
“We’ve shown that criminal tax evasion does not pay, with 16 people convicted with jail time under Project Wickenby so far.”
Mr D’Ascenzo said under Project Wickenby: 62 people have been charged with serious offences; 16 people were convicted; 1,823 audits and reviews have been completed; 443 audits were in progress; and, 24 criminal investigations were underway.
“Our work as part of the Project Wickenby investigations has highlighted the seriousness with which the ATO, our partner agencies and the courts treat the occurrence of tax crime,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“When it comes to fighting tax crime, we firmly believe that prevention is better than cure. It is in everyone’s interests that we deter people from engaging in crimes against the community.”
He said Project Wickenby was sending a clear signal to those tempted to cheat.
Mr D’Ascenzo said the story about Project Wickenby’s success was one of many in the fourth edition of the Targeting Tax Crime e-magazine launched last week.
The magazine is available from this PS News link and contains articles, interviews and commentary on various tax crime topics.
8 March, 2011
Audit shines in
The audit of a night patrol program in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory which is administered by the Attorney-Generals’ Department has found the Department responded well to the need for an unexpected and rapid expansion of the program.
In his report Northern Territory Night Patrols, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found community safety issues in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory to be “diverse and complex” but the Department “was able to quickly implement a new service delivery model” when conditions demanded it.
“In rapidly expanding the geographical distribution and level of support for night patrols as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) worked within the policy parameters set by the Government and was also influenced by the service delivery environment,” the Auditor-General said.
“AGD was able to quickly implement a new service delivery model in the Northern Territory, which enabled the Department to establish and support night patrol services in an additional 50 remote communities across the Northern Territory.
“There are now night patrol services operating in 80 communities”.
The Auditor-General said a fundamental implementation consideration for the department was the need to manage the transformation of a small program operating on a community by community basis into a scaled-up program operating across 73 locations.
“In this situation, it was important that the design of the expansion of the program, and the supporting management arrangements, achieved a balance between flexibility to respond at the local level and consistency in delivery across all areas,” Mr McPhee said.
According to the audit, as the program matured and the service delivery environment stabilised, the program framework was incrementally updated by AGD to give greater recognition to specific service delivery requirements in different communities.
The Attorney-General said data collected by the Department indicated that night patrols were providing a service in the Northern Territory which is heavily utilised.
Overall, the audit found AGD expanded night patrols as required, and while the Department has made adjustments to program administration, there was potential for further modification to allow increased flexibility and responsiveness to local circumstances, as well as a greater focus on referrals to other community services.
It said in order to improve the administrative effectiveness of the program, the
ANAO had made four recommendations aimed at reducing the administrative load associated with annual competitive funding, enabling more flexible service delivery in communities, improved connection with other services, and assessing program performance.
8 March, 2011
IP law reform
A move to reform Australia’s intellectual property laws (IP) has been signalled by the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr.
Senator Carr said protecting the ideas of Australian businesses at home and abroad was key to the reforms, which would help provide a successful and sustainable economy.
“This Government is committed to long-term and sustainable economic growth, and these reforms will help ensure that Australia remains well placed to conduct research, to do business and to work,” Senator Carr said.
“A robust IP system is essential to help generate jobs for Australians in the industries of the future.”
He said Australia had a rich history of innovation, from the ultra battery to the polymer bank note and the zero emissions house, and it was critical that Australia reaped the benefits of future great ideas.
Senator Carr said the main elements of the proposed reforms were: raising patent standards to align with major overseas trading partners; reducing the time to resolve patent and trade mark applications; strengthening anti-counterfeiting measures; and making sure the patent system doesn’t restrict research.
“These reforms will also make it easier for our overseas partners to continue to bring new technology to Australia,” he said.
Senator Carr said in developing these reforms, IP Australia had undertaken significant consultation with the business community and other interest groups for nearly two years.
He said IP Australia was responsible for the administration of patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeders’ rights, and these reforms form part of a suite of integrated projects to make the IP system work more efficiently for innovators, businesses and the community.
For more information about IP Australia visit www.ipaustralia.gov.au and for information about the Government’s support for innovation, visit this PS News link.
8 March, 2011
Election rules that demand provisional voters show proof of their identity within a week of voting in elections or referendums have been scrapped.
The move brings provisional voters into line with postal and absentee voters.
According to the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray it will restore a situation in which all voters who cast declaration votes are treated in the same way.
He said currently if proof of identity was not provided on polling day or by the first following Friday for those casting a provisional vote, the vote was not counted.
Senator Gray said provisional votes were a type of declaration vote cast at a polling place on polling day, and there are four main reasons a person would be asked to cast a provisional vote: the person’s name could not be found by the polling official on the electoral roll; a mark appeared on the certified list which indicated the person had already voted; the polling official doubts the person’s identity; and the person was a silent elector and their address didn’t appear on the publically available edition of the roll.
He said according to the Australian Electoral Commission at the 2010 general election more than 28,000 provisional votes were rejected because the voters did not provide evidence of identity by the deadline.
He said the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Provisional Voting) Bill 2011 sought to restore the Electoral Act to its pre-2006 status where the law, custom and practice established over almost a century accepted the voter’s signature as proof of identity.
Senator Gray said the voter’s signature provided on the declaration envelope in which the provisional votes were contained would be compared with the signature of the elector which exists on the original or subsequent enrolment forms, which were held by the AEC.
The Bill will also make amendments to the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 will also be made to ensure consistency between the two Acts.
8 March, 2011
Army hits its
The Australian Army turned 110 on 1 March.
The anniversary was commemorated with an early morning service at the Pool of Remembrance in the Australian War Memorial, which was followed by a birthday breakfast, the cutting of a birthday cake and the release of a commemorative coin
During the reception, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Gillespie, said that the soldiers and their families were what made the Army work, as both a military force and as a respected national institution.
“Even after my own long career as a soldier, I continue to be surprised and hugely heartened by the sense of service, sacrifice and achievement that each generation of young Australians brings to our Army,” Lieutenant General Gillespie said.
“The people of Australia and their Army therefore celebrate the latter’s birthday with pride in the Army’s achievements over the last year, tinged with considerable sadness at our losses in combat and accidents.”
He said throughout the Army’s 110 year history, two million Australians have served under the Rising Sun, and our Army had a proud history, from our fledging days of nationhood in 1901; through mass scale campaigns abroad during World Wars One and Two; through Korea and Vietnam; and to counter terrorism and international stabilisation today.
“On our Army’s 110th birthday, we rejoice in the fact that, as it has been for well over a century, Australia continues to have an Army for, and of, the whole of the Australian nation,” Lieutenant General Gillespie said.
He also expressed his sincere thanks to the Australian community and its continuing support of the Army’s operations at home and abroad.
“We truly appreciate the wonderful support the Australian community affords to our Army,” Lieutenant General Gillespie said.
“Our people are deployed on operations in Australia and overseas, including Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Timor and the Solomon Islands.”
Brigades around Australia also held community birthday events.
8 March, 2011
Ned Kelly’s armour
An exhibition of the Irish in Australia at the National Museum of Australia is to feature Ned Kelly’s suit of armour which is to leave its home at the State Library of Victoria for four months in Canberra.
pinged for museum
The exhibition Not Just Ned: A true history of the Irish in Australia will reunite Ned Kelly’s armour with that of the remaining Kelly gang members - Joe Byrne, Steve Hart and Dan Kelly – and marks the first time all four suits have been exhibited together outside of Victoria.
Director of Collections and Access at the State Library, Shane Carmody said the exhibition examined the Irish presence in Australia – from the day in January 1788 when a small number of Irish convicts, marines and officials walked off the transports of the First Fleet to the continuing arrival in our own time of young Irish backpackers.
He said he was pleased the State Library could make a significant contribution to the exhibition.
“Victoria would not be the state it is today without the influence of the Irish,” Mr Carmody said.
“From Sir Redmond Barry who founded our State Library and the University of Melbourne to Ned Kelly our most famous outlaw, Victoria’s history is marked by men and women of Irish descent from all walks of life.”
He said great moments in Australia’s history often included the Irish – Peter Lalor leading the Eureka rebellion, Burke and Wills’ epic journey across the continent.
“We are fortunate that our State Library collection is rich in material relating to these events and many others that Australians will be less familiar with,” Mr Carmody said.
“We are delighted to support the National Museum in this exhibition and the important story it tells.”
Not Just Ned: A true history of the Irish in Australia opens at the National Museum of Australia on 17 March and runs until 31 July.
8 March, 2011
Drug trial rules
A report recommending changes to pharmaceutical research processes in Australia has been accepted by the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon.
to be tested
Ms Roxon said the report was an important driver in keeping Australian clinicians at the cutting edge of medical science.
“Clinical trials help patients benefit from the latest treatments available, which ultimately lead to better health outcomes for all Australians,” Ms Roxon said.
Releasing the report, Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the microeconomic reform would improve productivity and have benefits for patients, industry, researchers and governments.
“The new policies that will stem from this report will ensure Australia remains internationally competitive in clinical trials,” Senator Carr said.
He said the report recommended how to: make approval processes for clinical trials being conducted in different states and territories more efficient; increase the benefits to the health system that come from e-Health reforms; and encourage more people to be involved in clinical trials.
“The industry estimates the annual economic worth of clinical trials to be in the order of $450 million,” Senator Carr said.
“Trials provide a significant number of high-skill, high-wage jobs for Australians”.
The Australian Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, who was a member of the Clinical Trials Action Group (CTAG) and chaired one of the expert reference groups, acknowledged the contribution of all those who provided input to the report.
“About 50 people were involved in the expert reference groups including clinicians, researchers, companies and state, territory and federal government officials,” Professor Bishop said.
“We also received more than 50 submissions from interested organisations and the public.”
The Clinical Trials Action Group is an initiative of the Pharmaceutical Industry Working Group which is co-chaired by Ms Roxon and Senator Carr.
The Clinical Trials Action Group was co-chaired by Richard Marles, then Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, and Mark Butler, then Parliamentary Secretary for Health.
8 March, 2011
Vics get please explain
The Victorian Government has until 15 March to provide the Commonwealth with all relevant information relating to its reintroduction of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) has issued the order saying the State Government reintroduced cattle to the park without first having the move assessed under national environmental laws.
The Department will consider the information the State provides before advising the Minister on whether it has broken the law.
Review for Capital Authority
The Minister for Regional Development, Simon Crean has ordered an independent review of the National Capital Authority (NCA).
Mr Crean said the review would make recommendations on the future role and responsibilities of the NCA and be conducted by the former Secretary of Defence, Allan Hawke.
“It is essential that we find the correct balance between planning responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the ACT Government in the National Capital,” Mr Crean said.
My School 2 live
My School 2.0 has gone live, giving all Australians access to greater information on 9,500 schools across the nation.
For the first time, the website provides new information on how much funding is going into schools to educate students, information about student progress in literacy and numeracy, and how each school compares to schools in similar communities.
The key improvements to the My School 2.0 website include: data about growth in student achievement; data about school finances; and security features to ensure that data is used appropriately.
My School 2.0 is available at this PS News link.
Spying above board
An Ombudsman’s investigation into the use of surveillance powers by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the WA Corruption and Crime Commission (WACCC) has found a generally high level of compliance with the laws governing surveillance by video, listening, tracking and data recording.
According to the Ombudsman, Allan Asher, only three recommendations needed to be made, one to each agency.
Mr Asher’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
POW records coming home
Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara has announced that Japan will return to Australia historical records of former Australian POWs held by Japan during World War II.
These index cards were originally offered to Australia by the Japanese Government in 1953, but the Australian Government of the time chose not to take up the offer, believing that they would not contain any new information.
The Government now believes the records may shed light on the fate of the members of Lark Force, many of whom were lost when the Japanese transport Montevideo Maru was sunk by a US submarine in 1942.
The records are expected to be housed in the Australian War Memorial.
Atheists target census
The Atheist Foundation of Australia launched a new website designed to encourage individuals and families to think about the importance and impact of their answer to the Census question: “What is the person’s religion?”
The website www.CensusNoReligion.org has been designed as a resource for interested Australians in the lead up to the next Australian Census being held on 9 August.
It gives people information about how the results of this question can be misused to allocate funds, overstate the number of actively religious people in Australia, and exaggerate the importance of religion in modern Australia.
AFP stands by commitment
The Australian Federal Police has rejected claims it has reduced its commitment to combating sex offences against children in the Asia-Pacific.
Through the High Tech Crime Operations portfolio, the AFP continues to initiate and fund a number of measures and programs to prevent child sex trafficking and tourism and prosecute child sex offenders.
It said comments by Bernadette McMenamin, CEO of Child Wise, criticizing the AFP’s commitment to combating this crime type were ill-informed and not conducive to furthering public awareness of this issue.
The AFP’s commitment to this issue has not wavered or been scaled down.
War Memorial gets $8M
The Government has committed an additional $8 million a year to the Australian War Memorial to support its ongoing operations.
The increased financial support is the result of a comprehensive review ordered by the Prime Minister on funding arrangements for the institution.
The Community and Public Sector Union has welcomed the announcement, but warns ongoing efficiency dividend cuts are putting other cultural institutions under threat.
The union remains deeply concerned that the budget policies that caused the War Memorial’s problems are still in place and are continuing to put pressure on other essential jobs and services.
Education links between Australia and Malaysia are set to strengthen with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries.
The signing of this MoU establishes an agreement between the two countries to encourage and promote cooperation in school/institution links and exchanges, teacher training and professional development, technical and vocational education and a range of other areas.
Cooperation under this MoU will include the exchange of education-related materials and publications and conferences, workshops, study visits and scholarships.
Three Australian universities now have campuses in Malaysia, and approximately 22,000 Malaysian students study Australian programs in Malaysia.
Small business gets tool
The Australian Government’s small business website has a new Google mapping tool that is putting small businesses in touch with their nearest business advisor.
Advisor Finder is the first online tool to put small businesses Australia-wide in touch with their nearest government funded advisor, and provides information about tax, employing staff, dispute resolution or grants.
The website is free and easy to use - you simply enter your industry, location and the type of advice you are after and the relevant advisors are displayed on a Google map with details of how to get in touch with them.
Senator Sherry said Advisor Finder is the latest in a suite of free tools available at www.business.gov.au
The Australian Government is seeking applications for the second round of funding under the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program.
The program provides $1.4 million of Commonwealth funding over three years from 2010-11, for projects which will attract a new generation of junior anthropologists to native title work and encourage senior anthropologists to continue their important work.
The program targets three priority areas of need: training and development for anthropologists to smooth the transition from study to native title field work; professional development and support for anthropologists working in the native title sector; and forging stronger links between academic and applied anthropological work.
Further information on the grants is available at this PS News link.
Traffic controllers cooperate
Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force have reiterated their commitment to working together to deliver the future air traffic management system for Australia.
Australia now has a unique opportunity in which both the military and civilian air traffic management systems are approaching their end of life, which presents a generational opportunity to procure a common air traffic management platform.
Harmonisation in Australia would be well supported by the transition to satellite-based technology already underway in Australian skies.
It would also ensure the air traffic system could cope with increasing complexity brought about by the ongoing and rapid evolutions in aircraft and avionics technology.
$13m for inventions
Thirty-four Australian inventions, including a drug to treat learning and memory loss, an additive to reduce carbon emissions from cement production and a greener hot water system will be turned into commercial success stories.
The Government is providing $13 million to be invested in the projects through Commercialization Australia, the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for Australian entrepreneurs.
As well as vital capital, successful individuals and businesses will receive practical support and guidance from experienced Case Managers and Volunteer Business Mentors.
For more information on Commercialization Australia and the support it provides, visit this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
New agency to set
Draft legislation setting up a new Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has been released for public comment.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Evans said the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Bill 2011 established TEQSA and a new national regulatory and quality assurance environment for Australian higher education.
“This is important legislation for the future of higher education in Australia and it is important that it be subjected to scrutiny and debate,” Senator Evans said.
“As the higher education sector goes through a period of expansion, it is important for Australia to have a national system of regulation to assure the quality of all providers.”
He said a national approach was vital so that all students, domestic and international, could be assured of the quality of their education.
Senator Evans said TEQSA would combine the regulatory activity currently undertaken in the states and territories with the quality assurance activities currently undertaken by the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA).
He said the Agency meant the number of federal, state and territory regulatory and quality assurance bodies would be reduced from nine to one.
Senator Evans said the establishment of TEQSA was a key recommendation of the Bradley Review of Higher Education.
He said the public exposure process built on the closed consultations undertaken in November and December 2010 with officials representing State and Territory Governments and representatives of peak stakeholder groups.
Senator Evans said following the public exposure process, the Government would introduce the TEQSA legislation to the Parliament in the week commencing 21 March and would also refer the TEQSA legislation to the Senate Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for inquiry.
He said the exposure draft legislation was available at www.deewr.gov.au/teqsa
The closing date for submissions on the exposure draft is 10 March.
1 March, 2011
ICT achievers plug
Nominations for the 2011 Government ICT Awards are now open.
into 2011 awards
Special Minister of State Gary Gray said the Awards included the Excellence in eGovernment Awards, the ICT Professional of the Year Award and the Government 2.0 Innovator Award.
He said the Awards provided the Government with an opportunity to recognize the most outstanding initiatives in eGovernment across a number of ICT disciplines, and to promote excellence in the use of ICT in all spheres of Government in Australia.
“This year two new awards have been introduced for Government 2.0 (Gov 2.0) innovation, which recognizes the use of Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, Twitter and social networking, to improve agency service delivery,” Mr Gray said.
He said the first new award introduced a Gov 2.0 Category in the Excellence in eGovernment Awards to recognize projects that use Web 2.0 tools to improve agency and program performance.
Mr Gray said the second new Award was the Gov 2.0 Innovator Award which had been introduced to recognize individual public servants who championed Web 2.0 tools.
“In the spirit of Gov 2.0, we are inviting members of the community to nominate agencies and individuals for the Gov 2.0 Awards,” he said.
“We want to know who is using social media to better engage with the public, to open up Government communications and provide Government information in the most effective way.”
Mr Gray said the Excellence in eGovernment Award covered a further four Categories - applications development; geospatial; project management; and service delivery.
He said the Awards provided information on the innovative work that was happening in ICT across all spheres of Government.
Mr Gray said the Awards were managed by the Australian Government Information Management Offices of the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance).
He said nominations close on 29 March and the winner would be announced on 1 June.
Details are available at this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
New tool to smooth
A new tool to assess the needs of vulnerable children and their families is to be trialled in four communities across Australia.
out kids’ needs
Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin, who announced the project with Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins, said the pilot project would test approaches to help doctors, nurses, teachers and childcare workers to identify issues early and respond to the needs of vulnerable children and their families.
She said the common assessment tool would make sure professionals working with vulnerable families share common terminology and had a common approach to responding to identified needs.
Ms Macklin said the common assessment tool, and referral approach, had been developed by a range of experts from peak medical organisations such as the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of Physicians, and the Australian General Practice Network.
She said the approach would now be trialled over the next 12 months by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth as part of the Government’s effort to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Ms Macklin said at present, there was no common approach to assessment, referral and support across different agencies, states and territories.
She said the groups participating in the pilot project would include Indigenous children, people with disability, from diverse language and cultural backgrounds and would come from both regional and metropolitan areas.
Ms Macklin said the pilot project followed a recommendation of the Common Approach to Assessment Referral and Support Ministerial Taskforce, established in April 2009, which brought together Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, non-government organisations and expert practitioners to develop options for a national approach to identifying and responding to the needs of children at risk.
She said the Ministerial Taskforce’s final report, a project under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, was also being released.
Further information on the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 and the Taskforce’s final report can be found at this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
Faults found with
The Australian Taxation Office has been advised to improve its administration of the Superannuation Lost Members’ Register (LMR).
lost super register
The Register contains information on superannuation contributors whose funds have lost touch with them. Its purpose is to reunite contributors with their ‘lost’ superannuation entitlements.
In his review of the scheme, Auditor-General Ian McPhee found the Register contained information on about 5.8 million superannuation accounts worth $18.8 billion and the ATO successfully able to match the majority of the owners through their Tax File Numbers.
The Auditor-General found however that 900,000 accounts, worth about $1 billion, were unable to be matched despite the ATO allocating $100 million to the overall task.
“There is scope for the Tax Office to make improvements to its administration in a number of areas,” the Auditor-General said.
“There is scope for improvement in developing specific and measurable targets for LMR activities, in monitoring the effectiveness of some risk mitigation measures, and in reporting externally on the costs and effectiveness of the LMR regime”
According to the Auditor, including the LMR in the Tax Office’s ‘easier, cheaper and more personalised’ system (Change Program) in 2009 offered the opportunity for the ATO to re-examine and re-engineer its processes for administering the LMR but the opportunity wasn’t taken “and the current systems reflect a number of inherent shortcomings.”
For example,” he said, “the Tax Office identified data quality issues as a risk to its management of the LMR, but placed considerable reliance on technological updates provided by its Change Program system implementation to manage these risks, rather than addressing the difficulties caused by the existing reporting arrangements.
“As a result, the Tax Office has developed the new LMR on the basis of existing processes, which resulted in the implementation of a system that replicates old problems in a new environment.”
He also found that some capabilities specified for the LMR as part of the Change Program
have not yet been delivered.
“The Tax Office is pursuing new approaches to analysis of LMR data, such as matching with Income Tax Return and Member Contributions Statement data.
“These processes are not currently well supported by Tax Office IT systems, and require substantial manual intervention.”
In his report the Auditor-General makes five recommendations including making it easier for people who have lost super to reclaim it themselves; improving the efficiency and effectiveness of both the LMR and related superannuation Unclaimed Money Register; assessing the ATO’s awareness-generating activities such as advertising and marketing relating to the LMR; and increasing the transparency of its cost. The ATO agreed with all recommendations.
The Auditor-General’s full report was compiled by the audit team of David Crossley, David Lacy, William Na and Danielle Wickman and can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has signed an agreement with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) to work together to win gold at the 2012 London Olympics.
in race for gold
The agreement confirms the Institute’s status as an Olympic Training Centre.
Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib, who signed the agreement with AOC President John Coates, said it demonstrated that the Australian Sports Commission and AOC shared a common goal in supporting Australia’s Olympic athletes.
“This agreement recognizes the pivotal role the AIS plays, along with our State and Territory institutes and academies, in providing our elite athletes with the best possible training and preparation for the Olympic stage,” Senator Arbib said.
“By working together across elite sport we will increase our chances of success at the 2012 London Olympics.”
Senator Arbib said the Government has also recently announced that 10 Olympic sports would share in $2.5 million in targeted funding under the Green and Gold Project.
Mr Coates praised the spirit of cooperation that underpins the new agreement.
“With a renewed focus on high performance sport and a renewed cooperation between the AIS, ASC and AOC, we can now concentrate on turning our national sporting partnership in to medals,” Mr Coates said.
“The Green and Gold project will provide Australian sport with a targeted and timely investment into the Olympic program – embracing the challenge of achieving a top five result in London.”
He said the AIS had a global reputation for producing elite athletes, such as kayakers Clint Robinson and Ken Wallace, archer Simon Fairweather, cyclists Ryan Bailey and Anna Meares, and swimmer Petria Thomas.
Mr Coates said by conferring Olympic Training Centre Status on the AIS, the AOC was acknowledging the critical role it plays in producing champions.
1 March, 2011
Australia’s apprenticeship system needs to be simplified, streamlined and better targeted if it is to help meet the critical skills needs of the economy, according to the Minister for Skills and Jobs, Senator Chris Evans.
failing skills test
Releasing an independent report on reform options for the national apprenticeships system, Senator Evans said the growing demand for skilled workers required a decisive response.
He said the report, A Shared responsibility – Apprenticeships for the 21st Century, was produced by an expert panel chaired by Jim McDowell and made 14 recommendations, many of which required consideration by the Council of Australian Governments.
“The Government is particularly supportive of recommendations for improving targeted incentive payments, work-based training initiatives and allowing competency-based progression,” Senator Evans said.
“Recent figures show 42 per cent of those starting apprenticeships are now aged 25 or above and the system must be able to recognise previous experience or qualifications held by these older apprentices and trainees and allow them to complete their training when they are competent.”
The Government would not consider introducing an employer contribution scheme, however.
“The Government believes industry is keen to co-operate voluntarily in a genuine partnership to improve the apprenticeships system,” Senator Evans said.
He said the Government was broadly supportive of the panel’s recommendations but would be reluctant to adopt measures which resulted in the imposition of additional or unwarranted bureaucracy.
He said as an immediate response to the expert panel report, the Government would seek to extend contracts for Australian Apprenticeship Centres until 30 June 2012 for wider consultation on the future of the support services
Senator Evans said key stakeholders would be invited to provide feedback at a number of round table meetings with members of the panel, and the public were able to provide feedback on at email@example.com
The Panel’s report will be published on the Australian Apprenticeships website at this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
New laws allowing internal body scanning at airports have been introduced into Parliament in an effort to catch drug couriers.
cleared to scan
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said Customs and Border Protection was planning to test internal body scanning technology as a way to boost the detection of drugs that were being imported inside the bodies of drug couriers.
He said the proposed changes to the Customs Act 1901 would allow accredited Customs officers to offer suspects the option of an internal body scan at an international airport, as part of a year-long trial.
Mr O’Connor said to conduct a body scan, Customs would have to form a reasonable suspicion that a person was carrying drugs internally and the suspect must consent to being scanned.
He said if they refused, they would instead undergo a hospital examination, which was the current practice.
“Body scanning technology will help to more promptly identify if a suspect is carrying drugs internally and allow medical help to be rendered quickly,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the use of internal body scanning technology at airports was also expected to present significant time and money savings to Customs, AFP and hospitals.
Mr O’Connor said the technology produced images similar to a medical x-ray showing internal body tissue, skeleton and, where present, internal drug concealments.
He said measures to ensure privacy and individual rights were respected included: law enforcement agencies forming a reasonable suspicion that a person may be carrying illicit drugs internally before the technology could be used; the operation of the body scanning technology would be conducted by a specially trained Customs officer; and the images taken were subject to storage, access and destruction controls.
Mr O’Connor said Customs and Border Protection was working with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to ensure that the use of the technology balanced law enforcement needs with privacy concerns.
The trial of internal body scanning technology will begin later this year after legislation is passed, consultation is conducted and other approvals are provided.
1 March, 2011
Paper kicks off
The first paper in a four-part series resulting from an ongoing inquiry into family violence has been published by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).
The paper entitled Family Violence - Employment and Superannuation is available for public comment.
According to the President of the ALRC, Professor Rosalind Croucher, the Commission decided to divide its commentary into sections to allow greater access to the issues by experts across a number of fields.
“Rather than producing one overarching Issues Paper, as is the usual practice in ALRC inquiries, we have chosen to produce discrete Issues Papers on the specific subject areas that we are examining, making the issues more immediately accessible to those people who are most deeply involved in each particular area of law,” Professor Croucher said.
“We look forward to receiving their responses to the issues raised.”
She said that in the first of the Issues Paper, the ALRC was asking: how can job search assistance provided through Job Services Australia be improved for victims of family violence; should the National Employment Standards, enterprise agreements or modern awards provide for the granting of family violence leave or other measures to assist victims of family violence; should family violence be better recognized as an occupational health and safety problem, where it affects the workplace; and how can superannuation law provide better protection to victims of family violence who may be coerced into transferring superannuation benefits or want early access to funds?
Professor Croucher said the other Papers would look at immigration, social security and family violence – child support and family assistance.
The first Issues Paper, Family Violence—Employment and Superannuation (IP 36), is available to view or download from the ALRC’s website at this PS News link.
Submissions addressing the questions in each Issues Papers may be made in writing, by email or using the online submission form.
Closing date for submissions is six weeks after the release of each Issues Paper. For IP 36 this is 6 April.
1 March, 2011
Police hit back at
The Australian Federal Police have responded to inaccurate media reports misrepresenting online education seminars it presents to National Rugby League clubs.
The AFP said the seminars were conducted by the AFP’s High Tech Crime Prevention team, which also delivered online education initiatives such as the ThinkUKnow program to Australian schools.
It said the initiative with the NRL was an extension of the AFP’s partnership with the NRL/Rugby League Player’s Association (RLPA) Education & Welfare program.
According to the AFP, the seminars focus on giving players advice about privacy on social networking sites and protecting their personal and financial information.
It said the program was piloted when the NRL invited the AFP to give online safety seminars to each of the Under 20 squads as part of the 2010 NRL Rookie Camps.
The AFP said following positive feedback from players and clubs, the NRL invited the AFP to deliver the same presentation to every NRL team.
The AFP rejected claims in an article in The Sunday Telegraph on 13 February, that an undercover AFP Federal Agent had been “flirting” and making “sexual advances” to players online, attempting to trick NRL players into releasing personal information.
It said since conducting these seminars, the AFP had adhered to the strictest confidentiality to ensure the privacy of players was not compromised, and the AFP had not, and would not, discuss specific content of the seminars publicly.
The AFP said the member presenting these seminars was not a sworn officer and was not “hired” by the NRL as The Sunday Telegraph’s article claims.
The AFP said it had welcomed the chance to cooperate with the NRL, which should be congratulated on taking the proactive step to protect the online welfare of its players.
It said any suggestions that Manly players had acted inappropriately in any way during this education exercise was a complete misrepresentation of what was a positive experience for everyone.
1 March, 2011
Survey to flush out
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has embarked on its annual survey of Murray-Darling Basin irrigators to see how they fared in the past year.
ABARES Deputy Executive Director, Paul Morris said results from previous surveys, conducted annually since 2006-07, had provided important information on irrigators’ financial performance throughout the Basin.
“The survey will provide insights into how irrigators managed financially in 2009-10 and 2010-11 compared to the previous three years, and to see whether their management practices have changed,” Mr Morris said.
“Although many irrigators have had to deal with recent severe flooding, much of the 2009-10 financial year was spent managing drought and associated low water allocations.” Mr Morris said irrigators were encouraged to participate in the survey as the information gathered would help the Government better understand the challenges facing the sector and regional communities.
He said about 900 irrigators were expected to be contacted to participate in the survey across 10 regions in the Basin.
Mr Morris said the survey was particularly important to better inform Government decision makers as they considered future water allocations in the Basin.
“ABARES has drawn on previously collected farm survey data to identify towns that are highly reliant on irrigation expenditure, especially those surrounded by irrigated annual crops such as rice and cotton,” he said.
“The survey will collect information on irrigated agricultural production and the financial situation of irrigators in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 financial years.”
Mr Morris said all information provided by irrigators remained confidential.
He said ABARES would only release the results from the survey as farm averages for a given region or industry.
The survey interviews are conducted on-farm by identified ABARES data collectors.
1 March, 2011
The National Archives of Australia has held its fourth annual Shake Your Family Tree Day, offering visitors the chance to discover their own family records from the Archives.
Director-General of the Archives, Ross Gibbs said the event attracted about 2,500 people annually to its offices around the country.
He said the theme for 2011 was “Unexpected Discoveries – amazing stories you can find in the Archives”, adding that the Archives held Australian Government records on men and women who served Australia in wartime, who settled here in the 20th century or who were employed on public projects.
Mr Gibb said visitors had the chance to unearth their own family records from the Archives, including letters, photographs, war service files and immigration documents.
“People are always amazed to discover what we hold in the Archives,” Mr Gibbs said.
“Family historians find letters, photographs, immigration and citizenship applications, employment records and copyright registrations, which help to build a picture of their past.”
He said the search was even easier now, with many of the documents available online.
Mr Gibbs said Shake Your Family Tree offered free expert advice from family historians, tips on finding family treasures, and activities ranging from preservation seminars to celebrity panel discussions.
He said it had been presented in association with related organisations such as state records, national and state libraries, genealogy societies, historical societies and ancestry.com.
Mr Gibbs said at Shake Your Family Tree day people viewed records from the Archives’ collection, learned how to use the online database, and bought books on family history research.
He said each capital city office held seminars, workshops, demonstrations and guided tours to help Australians start their family history journey.
More information is available at this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
Google Earth puts
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released a new graphic-based information product that shows detailed information on small areas of land from the size of a single urban city block to giant agricultural and forested land parcels.
Stats on the map
Officially billed as an “experimental” product, the new service integrates social, economic and environmental data with a spatial dimension and is powered by Google Earth.
Its first example allows users to ‘fly over’ the Great Barrier Reef catchment regions and explore data on boundaries, population, business counts, rateable land values, land use, land cover as well as fire, temperature and rainfall information.
According to the Director of the Bureau’s Land and Industry Statistics, Mark Lound, the product is an “exciting new way of viewing statistical data.”
“The most exciting feature of this collection is how closely we can now zoom in to the Great Barrier Reef catchments,” Mr Lound said.
“We can inform planning decisions for small spatial areas, rather than relying on more general information at aggregate levels.”
He said information from the Land Account could be used to inform debate and decision-making on a wide range of issues including population settlement, land management, measuring the health of the environment and the sustainable production of goods and services.
Data illustrating the changes in land cover from pre-European settlement in 1750 to the present day is also included.
“This one-stop-shop is a result of a massive collaborative effort from several government agencies to provide a range of information on land use, land value and land cover”, Mr Lound said.
He said the ESRI Geodatabase and Mapinfo versions can be downloaded from the ABS website and used as a socio-economic layer in a GIS system.
To access the new product, visit this PS News link.
1 March, 2011
A survey of gamefishing anglers taking part in a tournament in Port Stephens this month and next is to be undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) to drive better decisions on data collection, research, consultation and management.
to net information
ABARES Deputy Executive Director, Paul Morris said the survey was part of a social and economic study of gamefishing in eastern Australia and that information was required on gamefishing to understand its importance to the broader community.
“ABARES researchers will interview anglers at boat ramps and wharves during three tournaments this year, as well as surveying anglers outside tournaments and interviewing local businesses and community members,” Mr Morris said.
He said the Port Stephens survey built on similar work in Bermagui over January-February, where ABARES researchers interviewed more than 120 gamefishers and 40 businesses and community members.
“Port Stephens provides a cross-section of gamefishing activities that range from charter boats to organised tournaments and to gamefishers who just want to enjoy the excitement of encountering big fish like tuna and marlin,” Mr Morris said.
He said every year, thousands of gamefishers ventured off Australia’s east coast, from the black marlin grounds of Cairns to Hobart in the south, in boats ranging from small “tinnies” to large cruisers.
Mr Morris said tournaments such as the Interclub attracted hundreds of participants and their families, and they encouraged gamefishers to retain only record fish and to tag-and-release others.
He said there were also unknown numbers of gamefishers that weren’t members of fishing clubs and didn’t fish in tournaments.
Mr Morris said the study was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), and had the support of the Game Fishing Association of Australia (GFAA).
He said the study’s report would be available in late 2011.
1 March, 2011
Positive signals for
The new Chief Executive of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), John Fullerton, has used his first day in the job to put the case for revitalising the rail industry as part of the national transport and logistics framework.
He said the improvement to the reliability and efficiency of rail freight over the last decade had been significant, and rail had become a competitive and value adding component in Australia’s interstate transport market.
However, Mr Fullerton said, the simple truth was that there was still uncertainty in the market place as to rail’s capability to deliver as a transport solution.
“This must change,” Mr Fullerton said.
“We need to work with customers and potential customers to position rail freight as a cost effective transport alternative and to address the incorrect perception that rail is not up to the task as a long-haul logistics solution.”
He said rail was now cheaper, more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly than long-haul road transport, and on average was about 20 per cent cheaper door-to-door on long-haul routes.
“ARTC will continue to drive the revitalisation of rail freight as a competitive option to trucks and our focus especially will be between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne,” Mr Fullerton said.
He said Australia did not do enough research into freight transport and related long-term planning.
“ARTC has undertaken detailed studies that have taken a long-term view of the transport market factoring in fuel prices, labour costs, congestion and carbon costs,” Mr Fullerton said.
He said the conclusion was that as demand doubled over the next decade, the obstacles facing road transport meant that the increasing logistics burden could not be handled by trucking alone.
Mr Fullerton said that part of the solution was the move toward the effective pricing of transport infrastructure.
“The Henry Tax Review called for road pricing reform and heavy vehicle charges on long haul routes where road and rail compete,” he said.
“This would help rail take some of the heavy lifting from the trucking industry in meeting the growing demand and the need for more efficient logistics solutions.”
1 March, 2011
Carers’ services to
Improvements to family relationship services that cater specifically to the needs of carers have been unveiled by the Parliamentary Secretaries for Disabilities and Carers and Community Services, Senator Jan McLucas and Julie Collins.
be more caring
Senator McLucas said from 1 July the Family Relationship Services for Carers initiative would be integrated into the Government’s Family Support Program, and service providers would continue to receive funding to provide important support for carers of children with disability and their families.
She said an independent evaluation of the Family Relationship Services for Carers initiative found it duplicated other initiatives focused on supporting carers and their families and was hampered by a lack of clear goals.
Senator McLucas said the independent evaluation also found service providers in each state and territory provided varying levels of support and there was no consistency in their operation.
She said to combat this it was recommended that consistent reporting and monitoring standards be introduced.
Senator McLucas said integrating this initiative into the Family Support Program would help address duplications and would allow clear objectives, targets and performance measures to be developed for service providers over the coming months.
She said it would help parents, siblings and carers access specialist advice and support, including helping them manage the particular challenges that caring for a child with disability could bring.
Senator McLucas said the new Family Support Program streamlined more than 20 family and children’s services programs into four to give services greater flexibility and capacity to respond to the diverse nature and needs of families.
She said a major feature of the Program would be the requirement for providers to ensure vulnerable and disadvantaged families and children were prioritised.
The Government will work closely with the eight service providers currently delivering the Family Relationship Services for Carers program over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements from 1 July.
1 March, 2011
Wiser heads prevail
A review of income support for rural and regional students accessing higher education has been brought forward by 12 months.
for youth allowance
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the issue of eligibility for youth allowance was of great importance to students and their families.
“The Government’s recent reforms to student income support have significantly improved financial assistance to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, including regional students,” Senator Evans said.
“But we also recognize the long-term need to eliminate eligibility distinctions between inner regional and outer regional students.”
He said the Government was responding positively to concerns on this issue raised by Labor Caucus members, Independents Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie, and the Greens.
Senator Evans said the review would report by 1 July this year, and the Government would move to implement any new eligibility arrangements from 1 January, 2012.
He said the review would consider appropriate savings that could be made to pay for any extensions in eligibility for Youth Allowance, and any new arrangements must be offset by savings.
“Improved university participation by regional students is central to the Government’s higher education reforms,” Senator Evans said.
“As a result of the Government’s reforms, there has already been a 25 per cent increase in dependent Youth Allowance recipients from rural and regional areas in higher education.”
He said more than 25,000 additional students who needed to move away from home to study now receive scholarships towards their accommodation costs.
Senator Evans said the Government’s reforms had benefitted more than 85,000 young people who now received the maximum rate of Youth Allowance, a higher rate of Youth Allowance, or a payment of Youth Allowance for the first time.
He said the Government was also committed to infrastructure in universities and TAFEs in regional Australia through a new Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund of up to $500 million.
1 March, 2011
Revised super costings
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has released updated cost estimates of alternative indexation arrangements for Commonwealth superannuation pensions.
The updated estimates show the impact on the pension if it was indexed at the same rate as for the Age Pension or by either the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the increase in Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), whichever was higher.
According to Finance, the cost of increasing the indexation of the schemes ranges from $322 million to $614 million and would lead to an increase in unfunded superannuation liabilities of $32.9 billion to $47.8 billion.
More information is available at this PS News link.
Graduate Event Series
Registrations are now open for the Australian Public Service Commission’s 2011 Graduate Event Series.
The Series provides an opportunity for APS graduates to build their knowledge of current APS issues and establish strong networks among their graduate colleagues from other departments and agencies.
For further information contact Thushanthee Wickramasekera, APS Graduate Events Manager, APS Education Team on (02) 6202 3560 or register at this PS News link.
Events for 2011 include A Taste of Government, 21 March; The Great APS Graduate Debate, 24 May; The Great APS Debate Round 2: Winning Graduate vs. Secretaries, 2 August; Candid Reflections from inspiring APS leaders, 4 November.
GG throws house open
Government House in Canberra is to be open to the public this Sunday, 6 March from 10am to 4pm.
An annual fundraiser for the Smith Family, the Open Day will feature an art show, car show, entertainment and refreshments with the historic home of the Governor-General open for inspection.
3-D TV review finished
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has concluded its review of 3-D TV trials and will continue to consider authorising trials of emerging technologies using the currently unassigned digital television channels until the end of 2011.
The ACMA also decided that any further trials must be of a short duration, and broadcasters would be required to give the ACMA undertakings on measures that will assist consumers to understand that trial broadcasts are temporary.
Later in 2011, the ACMA will review its approach to the use of temporary spectrum, as the requirements for the restacking of existing television channels become clearer.
The ACMA website has been updated, with a new section on 3D TV (at this PS News link) setting out the ACMA approach to further trials.
Austrade office for Mongolia
The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) will open a new office in Mongolia in the second half of this year.
The decision to locate an Austrade office in Ulaan Bataar, the Mongolian capital, reflects the growing business relationship between the two countries.
It will provide advice on doing business in Mongolia, arrange appointments with key business and Government decision-makers and continue to support the interests of Australian companies already in the country.
The announcement followed the release on Monday of Austrade’s Mongolian Mining Projects Report 2011, which outlines promising investment opportunities for Australian mining companies in the country.
The report is available at this PS News link.
Air Force commemorative stamp
Australia Post has issued an Air Force Aviation commemorative stamp issue.
This was a very timely partnership for Air Force, as it celebrated its 90th birthday this year with the theme tradition, innovation, evolution.
The four Air Force Aviation stamps feature the F-111 (60 cents), the F/A-18F Super Hornet (60 cents), the AEW&C Wedgetail ($1.20) and the C-17 Globemaster III ($3).
New Zealand-based Australian illustrator Jamie Tufrey was commissioned to illustrate the stamp issue.
The stamp issue is available at participating Australia Post retail outlets, via mail order on 1800 331 794 and online at this PS News link from 22 February.
Web attacks repelled
Australian Capital Territory Government websites faced 646,700 attacks in 2009/2010, but managed to defend themselves against all of them.
The attacks had been ranked in severity using the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CVSS) standard as high, medium or low. Of the attacks, 78,000 were rated as high, 565,000 as medium and 3,700 as low.
The Government had implemented a “layered defence” against attacks on 98 ACT sites.
The ACT Government shared services agency, InTACT, continually improves its ICT infrastructure gateway by deploying well managed firewalls, intruder prevention systems and geographically dispersed websites.
Pacific art exhibition
The National Gallery of Australia has opened the first Solomon Islands art exhibition in Australia.
Open until 29 May, Varilaku: Pacific arts from the Solomon Islands tells a story of both beauty and aggression, bringing together the finest traditional arts from the Solomon Islands.
The exhibition explores traditional beliefs in ancestral ghosts, the world of spirit beings, ocean-bound raiding expeditions and the indigenous aesthetics of the self, such as the use of adornments to express identity and status.
Varilaku features artefacts, such as decorated wooden ear ornaments that young men and women would wear to enhance their appeal, life like sculptures, over-modelled skulls and protective spirit figures from the front of head-hunting canoes.
Skills picture uneven
Research reveals that the national skills supply and demand picture remains patchy.
The Skills Shortages Summary publication released by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations found that while employers experienced more difficulty last year recruiting workers in resource professions than in 2009, for some professions employers found recruitment easier.
In 2010, while employers found it easier to recruit Building Associates, Engineering Associates, and Health Diagnostic and Therapy Professions, shortages of health professions remained relatively widespread.
The most challenging vacancies to fill were in resource professions, which includes occupations such as geologists and mining engineers, with 45 per cent filled.
The DEEWR Skills Shortages Summary is available at this PS News link.
Juvenile report released
The Australian Institute of Criminology has released research on the challenges of juveniles in the criminal justice system.
A substantial proportion of crime is perpetuated by juveniles, but more “grow out” of offending and adopt law-abiding lifestyles as they mature.
The research showed that while the criminal justice system treats juvenile offenders quite separately and less harshly that their adult counterparts, young people (aged 15-19) were four times more likely to offend than those over 19.
Is also showed juvenile crimes were generally offences against property, rather than against the person: graffiti, vandalism, shoplifting and fare evasion.
The paper is available at this PS News link.